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Archive for October, 2012

This Week in Music History: October 29 to November 4

Posted on: October 29th, 2012 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By David Ball

“This Time,” the third and final single from Bryan Adams’ North American breakthrough, Cuts Like a Knife, peaked at No. 24 on Billboard’s Hot 100 on October 29, 1983. The track, written by Adams and Jim Vallance, became the Kingston, Ontario–born rocker’s first venture onto the United Kingdom charts, which is indeed surprising given the success of the LP’s more prominent previous two Billboard and RPM hits, “Straight From the Heart” and “Cuts Like a Knife,” the latter of which reached the Top 10 in the United States.

Though the album won four JUNO Awards in 1984, Cuts Like a Knife was not well received outside of North America upon its initial go-round. However, album sales grew to over $2 million worldwide the following year when Adams released his career-defining effort, Reckless. Sales and accolades aside, it’s pretty much a flip of the coin when it comes to deciding which is the better of the two releases as both are widely recognized as two of the finest rock albums of the 1980s.

 

Since it’s Halloween time, I’ve been getting into the spirit by reading some spine-tingling yarns by one of the masters of horror, H. P. Lovecraft. Still, even Lovecraft’s stories “The Tomb” and “Herbert West–Reanimator” pale in comparison to the frights that will surely be uncovered, intentionally and unintentionally, in the forthcoming Ke$ha autobiography – or equal the level of dark despair created by the evil genius known as Dr. Tongue.

Dr. Tongue with Count Floyd and Woody Tobias Jr.

Not known for being a song-and-dance satirist – unlike most of his “SCTV” co-stars – it’s a bit of stretch to include John Candy in This Week In Music History, but WHO CARES?! It’s John Freakin’ Candy, it’s Halloween time and, from where I’m sitting, the lovable multi-layered comedic genius deserves props for bringing North American television audiences some hilarious music-related characters during his SCTV years, including Gil “The Fishin’ Musician” Fisher – a perfect send-up of the long-running CTV fishing show hosted by TV sportswriter and amateur angler Red Fisher. (I’m particularly fond of Gil’s episodes featuring Wendy O’Williams and her shock-punk band The Plasmatics, The Tubes and Joe Walsh). Then there was clarinet-playing Yosh Shmenge in the Leutonian polka supergroup The Shmenge Brothers (a.k.a. the Happy Wanderers) as well as Candy’s mighty impression of Luciano Pavarotti (check out the K-Tel commercial “Stairway to Heaven” parody featuring the iconic opera singer).

Yosh and Stan Shmenge

Candy started his professional career with the CBC in Toronto in the early 1970s. He then hooked up with Chicago’s ground-breaking Second City improv troupe when it opened its sister branch in Toronto in 1973, joining such comedy talents as Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, Dave Thomas and Eugene Levy. In 1976, “SCTV” hit Canadian airwaves via Global TV and was picked up in syndication in the United States a few years later. The sketch comedy was a big hit on both sides of the border (and sometimes funnier than rival “Saturday Night Live”), winning two Emmy Awards, and the show subsequently made stars out of many of its main cast members.

Although Candy scored a few bit film parts in the 1970s and early ’80s, including in Steven Spielberg’s 1941, The Blues Brothers and Stripes, his silver-screen career didn’t really take off until “SCTV” went off the air in 1983. Candy delivered memorable support work in several big budget comedies, including Splash (1984) and Brewster’s Millions (1985) before landing one of his most lasting roles, that of amiable shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith in John Hughes’ heartwarming and rip-roaringly funny 1987 road trip masterpiece, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. He followed it up two years later with the beloved blockbuster Uncle Buck. Speaking of the former, one of the film’s funniest scenes involves Candy as Griffith driving at night, playing air piano and saxophone while listening to Ray Charles’ “Mess Around,” as his reluctant road trip partner Neal Page (Steve Martin) sleeps. Outright madness ensues.

Neal Page and Del Griffith, reluctant travelling partners in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

While it may be true that Candy’s immense talent was wasted by most filmmakers (check out the bombs Who’s Harry Crumb? and Delirious), his career appeared to be on the upswing around the time of his untimely death with 1991’s Only the Lonely, 1992’s JFK and 1993’s Jamaican bobsled comedy Cool Runnings. Heck, I even gave Michael Moore’s Canadian Bacon a mild thumbs up after seeing it in a Toronto theatre when it was released in 1995. Candy died in his sleep at age 43 while filming Wagons East in Mexico on March 4, 1994. There’ll never be another one like him. Dr. Tongue et. al, I salute you!

 

I’m guilty of being ignorant about this one (and many more music facts for that matter): I’ve always assumed this Montreal superstar’s song never made it onto Billboard’s Top 30. I must be living in some sort of box or something…

Corey Hart’s “Boy in the Box” reached No. 26 on the U.S. pop chart on November 2, 1985.

From the album of the same title, the follow-up single to the Billboard Top 5 and RPM No. 1 hit single “Never Surrender” charted 19 spots higher in Canada and did even better in the U.S. than Boy in the Box’s third single, “Everything in My Heart” – which is impressive, given that the latter was a Canuck chart-topper. Interesting fact: One of the producers on the JUNO Award–nominated LP was Jon Astley, the ex-brother-in-law of The Who’s Pete Townshend. (C’mon! I’m always looking for a place to squeeze in a Who reference somewhere!)

 

It feels like it was just last week that I mentioned Celine Dion winning beaucoup de Félix Awards at the 1985 gala… perhaps because the story was indeed featured in last week’s TWIMH. Whattya gonna do? So, without further adieu, in yet another installment of the semi-regular series: This Week in Celine Dion History…

The Quebec diva won an impressive five Felix Awards at the 18th Gala de l’ADISQ (the Quebec equivalent of the JUNO Awards) in a ceremony held in Montreal on November 3, 1996. Dion won five Félix trophies as selected by the ADISQ jury in the categories: Quebec Artist Achieving the Most Success in any Language Other Than French, Performance of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, Best Selling Album of the Year (for her 1995 French-language album D’eux) and Quebec Artist Achieving the Most Success Outside of the Province of Quebec (I had money on Mitsou).

D’eux also won the 1996 JUNO Award for Best Selling Francophone Album, and the Montreal multilingual megastar won another 12 international accolades that same year including the Médaille des Arts et Lettres (Medal of Arts and Letters), presented by France’s minister of culture recognizing Dion’s status as the bestselling French-language artist in history. Magnifique!

Next week: More Bryan Adams and Cutting Crew

Driving scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) with Del Griffith doing the “Mess Around”:

Haunted Playlist

Posted on: October 29th, 2012 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

Apart from Christmas, I think Halloween has got to be the most musical of holidays. Bands love writing songs about Halloween. Or about zombies or monsters, which are both pretty much synonymous with the holiday. So whether you’re out trick-or-treating or you’re at home handing out the goods, here are a few tracks to put you in the spooky holiday spirit.

The Creepshow – “Zombies Ate Her Brain”

Here’s one from back in 2007 by Burlington, Ontario’s horrorbilly kings, The Creepshow. Short and sweet, its entire thematic arch is essentially summarized by the title: a girl goes to a graveyard; zombies eat her brains. It doesn’t get much better than that for Halloween.

 

Metric – “Monster Hospital”

This is from Metric’s JUNO Award winning third album, Live it Out, which was released in 2005. While I’m not exactly clear what vocalist Emily Haines is singing about – both “monsters” and “hospitals” figure ambiguously in the lyrics – the music video is rife with classic horror imagery, such as hands reaching up through the floors, bleeding light sockets and various ghoulishness. Great stuff from the Toronto-based quartet, and oh-so-very spooky.

 

Wednesday 13 – “I Walked With a Zombie”

Wednesday 13 is a musician from Charlotte, North Carolina, who is currently the frontman of the Murderdolls, and who used to be part of Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13 before they broke up – so you can tell he’s got Halloween bona fides. This track, however, comes from his solo work, off the album Transylvania 90210: Songs of Death, Dying, and the Dead, which was released in 2005. The music video has lots of vintage horror film excerpts worked in, so it’s perfect for Halloween rocking.

 

Misfits – “Halloween”

As the previous track demonstrated, there’s something about punk and Halloween/zombies/vintage horror movies that just seem to go together, and this classic from 1981 is another great example. It’s the Misfits fifth single, reissued in 1985 on their compilation album, Legacy of Brutality. The lyrics go something like: “This day anything goes / Burning bodies hanging from poles / I remember Halloween / Candy apples and razor blades / Little dead are soon in graves / I remember Halloween” – which leads me to wonder where lead singer Glenn Danzig grew up. Neighbourhood sounds rough.

 

The Rocky Horror Picture Show – “Time Warp”

And of course, this one. No Halloween is complete without some kind of Rocky Horror Picture Show reference or tie-in. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. Before horror-punk, psychobilly and horrorbilly were all the rage, this was the true soundtrack of Halloween, and it’s still going strong nearly 40 years after the film’s 1975 release. Bask in the amazingness that is Richard O’Brien as Riff Raff. And have a happy Halloween.

The Daily Grind

Posted on: October 25th, 2012 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

Well, music lover, it’s been one of those weeks. Work’s been getting me down, and all I want to do is get out, go listen to some music and maybe take a hike or something while the trees are still looking as lovely as they are.

That’s not going to happen though, chained as I am to my desk, so instead I’ve come up with a playlist to help me make it through until the weekend. Maybe you’re having a week like this, too? If so, you might find that some of these songs resonate with you.

Sam Cooke – “Chain Gang”

Ah yes, the Monday morning classic and one of my favourite songs with which to start the week. This song came out as a single in 1960 and reached No. 2 on the American charts. It’s by Sam Cooke, of course, the singer extraordinaire who was tragically shot by Bertha Franklin, the manager of the motel where he was staying. What a way to go. I guess it makes another Monday not seem so bad.

 

Drive-By Truckers – “This F***ing Job”

Here’s a cheery one. The title pretty much sums it up, and I guess we all feel that way sometimes. Luckily, for most of us, that’s the extent to which this particular piece of art imitates our particular slice of life, and we don’t actually have to go through everything detailed in the song’s rather cinematically tragic music video.

 

Bob Dylan – “Maggie’s Farm”

This is a great song to which to resent working. It was released in 1965 on Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home album, and it’s about as resonant today as it probably was back then. Of course, it’s generally interpreted as Dylan’s declaration of independence from the protest folk movement, casting him as the pawn and the folk music scene as the oppressor – so that kind of changes things, if he’s not actually talking about “working,” but rather about being “artistically constrained” by his “scene.”

 

Loverboy – “Working for the Weekend”

The Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2009 inductees didn’t get in on good looks alone – they also wrote classic tunes, like this one, which I’m sure nearly everyone has belted out at least once on their way home from work. Sadly, this is a reality for all too many of us.

 

Harry Belafonte – “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)”

And then… there is this one. If I’d written it I would have called it “The Quitting Song” or at least “The Closing Song,” because it seems to perfectly capture the feeling of the end of the day, as you drag your weary body home – hopefully to something better. I’m humming it right now, in fact. “Me want to go home…”

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