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Archive for May, 2014

This Week in Music History: May 26 to June 1

Posted on: May 27th, 2014 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By Adam Bunch

THE BIRTH OF THE CHUM CHART

When 1050 CHUM first began to broadcast in the fall of 1945 – just a few weeks after the end of the Second World War – it covered a little bit of everything: news, music, sports. But during this week in 1957, the Toronto radio station made a change. It started to play nothing but music all day long, and every song was a hit. The entire playlist was composed of tunes sitting in the Top 50 of the pop charts. As such, 1050 CHUM had become the very first pop music radio station in Canada.

That wasn’t the only way the station was breaking new ground. For the very first time, a Canadian radio station was keeping track of its own pop chart. On the same day that CHUM changed formats, the station also launched what they called “The CHUM Chart.” The very first song that was played was also the first to hit No. 1: Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up.”

But that was just the beginning. Over the course of the next few decades, the CHUM Chart became one of the defining institutions of the Canadian music industry, and 1050 CHUM became one of the most famous broadcasters in the country. By the time the early 1960s rolled around, the chart had even featured the first Canadian band to hit No. 1, when Richie Knight and The Mid-Knights’ song “Charlena” climbed all the way to the top.

“CHARLENA” BY RICHIE KNIGHT AND THE MID-KNIGHTS

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THE GUESS WHO’S FIRST TOP 10 BILLBOARD HIT

By 1969, The Guess Who had already been around for more than a decade in one form or another. The band had also already found plenty of success, breaking into the Top 40 on the Billboard pop charts back when they were known as Chad Allan and The Reflections. “Shakin’ All Over” climbed all the way to No. 22 when the group’s American record company released it under the intentionally mysterious name of “Guess Who?” – and the name stuck.

Now they were about to release a single that would reach a whole new level of success. The Guess Who had added an important new member since the days of “Shakin’ All Over” – Burton Cummings – and on the new album, Wheatfield Soul, he sang lead the whole way through for the first time. The first single off the record was a track Cummings had co-written with Randy Bachman. It was a ballad with an unforgettable vocal hook and it soared up the Billboard charts to reach heights a Guess Who single had never reached before.

It was during this week in 1969 that “These Eyes” hit No. 6 in the Billboard Top 10.

This Week in Music History: May 19 to 25

Posted on: May 20th, 2014 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By Adam Bunch

NEWFOUNDLAND’S NATIONAL ANTHEM

It’s easy to forget how recently the province of Newfoundland became a part of Canada. It was only a little more than 60 years ago that the people of “The Rock” chose to join Confederation. Before that, back when it was its own country – the Dominion of Newfoundland – they had their own national anthem.

The British governor of the Dominion, a fellow by the name of Sir Charles Cavendish Boyle, wrote the anthem in 1902. He was an Englishman and he only lived in Newfoundland for three years, but during that time he was deeply impressed by the natural beauty of the island. He wrote several poems about it. One of them was simply called “Newfoundland”; it started like this:

When sun rays crown thy pine clad hills,
And summer spreads her hand,
When silvern voices tune thy rills,
We love thee, smiling land.
We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, smiling land.

There were four verses in all. By the end of that year, music had been added and the song was performed in public for the very first time. It proved to be so popular that during this week in 1904 it was chosen as the official national anthem. Today, more than a century later, the island may be part of Canada, but the song – now known as “Ode to Newfoundland” – is still the official anthem of the province.

“ODE TO NEWFOUNDLAND” PERFORMED BY KIM STOCKWOOD AND DAMHNAIT DOYLE

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TOMMY CHONG’S MOTOWN HIT

Tommy Chong is best known as half of the pot-smoking comedy duo Cheech and Chong, along with his more recent role as the stoner Leo on “That ’70s Show.” But his first claim to fame came all the way back in the 1960s as a musician and songwriter. The son of a Chinese truck driver, Chong was born and raised in Alberta, and by the time he was in his early 20s he was playing guitar for a local Calgary band called The Shades. It was during a trip to San Francisco that the band met an American musician by the name of Bobby Taylor. Inspired, they decided to form a new group. For a while, they cycled through a litany of controversial new names for the band, all of them playing on the mixed racial heritage of the group, but that just drove their fans away. In the end, after they had resettled in Vancouver, they picked a much less controversial moniker. Now they were known as Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers.

Then, one day in 1965, a couple of members of The Supremes came to a show. They were so impressed by the band that they recommended the group to their label. And that’s how Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers got signed to one of the most famous music labels in the history of the world: Motown. (In fact, it was Taylor who then recommended that the label sign a group The Vancouvers once opened for: The Jackson 5.)

Chong co-wrote the group’s biggest hit. It was called “Does Your Mama Know About Me” and it would eventually end up being covered by The Supremes. But it was Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers who took it all the way into the Top 40 of the Billboard charts during this week in 1968.

“DOES YOUR MAMA KNOW ABOUT ME” BY BOBBY TAYLOR AND THE VANCOUVERS

Photo of Newfoundland via Wikimedia Commons.

Wayback Playback: ’90s Edition

Posted on: May 15th, 2014 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

Blue Rodeo in the 1990s

Nostalgia for the 1990s has risen to new heights. These days it seems that if someone’s not in high-waisted jeans and a belly top, than they’re in a plaid flannel shirt with a Nirvana tee underneath.

It’s not just the fashion that has returned, though – it’s the music, too. Nine Inch Nails has a new album out and is touring, Nirvana was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and even Soundgarden is back at it (or they were until their drummer quit, and that was because he wanted to work on promoting the new album from Pearl Jam, another mega-group from the ’90s).

While these are all American bands, it strikes me that the ’90s were really a musical heyday for Canada as well. In fact, back at the turn of the century – which really makes it sound like a long time ago! – the charts were dominated by Canadian music: Treble Charger, Headstones, Rusty… the list goes on. This week, we thought we’d take a trip back down memory lane, dive right into this whole ’90s nostalgia thing and take a look at some of the best bands Canada was sharing with the rest of the world. And we of course have to start with…

HAYDEN – “BAD AS THEY SEEM”

The ’90s were a unique time. As Fred Armisen has pointed out, it was an era in which people were pretty much content to do nothing: happy to just work a couple of hours a week in a coffee shop or maybe go to clown school, which was actually considered a legitimate career choice then. Slacker culture was at its zenith and no one quite captures that mood like Thornhill, Ontario’s Paul Hayden Desser, better known as Hayden. “Bad as They Seem” was a slacker anthem revelling in its melancholy, celebrating almost as much as lamenting the travails of living at home, working a dead-end job and basically being stuck in the suburbs. This track is a snapshot of the era.

*****

JANN ARDEN – “COULD I BE YOUR GIRL”

Another Canadian dominating the charts back in the ’90s was Calgary’s Jann Arden. Her critically acclaimed debut album, 1993’s Time for Mercy, brought her international attention. She followed it up the next year with Living Under June, the record that the above track comes from and that also features “Insensitive,” a huge international hit that was on the soundtrack of the Christian Slater film Bed of Roses (because no totally ’90s phenomenon is complete without a Christian Slater reference). For more ’90s stuff, watch the video for “Could I Be Your Girl” (above), which features brown lip liner, hacky sack and that semi-grainy over-exposed lighting esthetic that seemed to characterize so many ’90s vids.

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ODDS – “EAT MY BRAIN”

Moving a bit farther west, here we have another ’90s staple: Vancouver’s Odds. Formed in 1987, the band rocked right on through to 1999 before finally disbanding. In that time they managed to conquer quite a few ’90s milestones, including the release of a music video that featured The Kids in the Hall in drag. Their drummer, Paul Brenna, would eventually go on to join Big Sugar, another Canadian music staple of the ’90s. He was replaced with Pat Steward, a friend of Odds bassist Doug Elliott who had previously played for Bryan Adams. And, because everything ’90s is back again, a modified version of the band reunited in 2008 under the name The New Odds.

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AGE OF ELECTRIC – “REMOTE CONTROL”

Another unique facet of ’90s culture that can’t be overlooked is the “wet hair” look, which is employed to full effect here in the video for “Remote Control” by Lanigan, Saskatchewan’s Age of Electric. This track comes from the group’s 1997 release, Make a Pest a Pet, and was also featured on the iconic ’90s era compilation series Big Shiny Tunes (the diamond-certified BST 2, to be precise).

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BLUE RODEO – “LOST TOGETHER”

Of course, any list of great Canadian tunes from the 1990s would be incomplete without something from the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2012 inductees, Blue Rodeo. This track comes from the band’s 1992 release of the same name, which went double-platinum and peaked at No. 3 on the Canadian charts. Strangely enough, while this song does seem to encapsulate an era, there is really nothing particularly ’90s about it – which I guess means it’s timeless.

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