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Archive for September, 2014

This Week in Music History: September 29 to October 5

Posted on: September 30th, 2014 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By Adam Bunch

ALANIS MORISSETTE’S LANDMARK ALBUM

It wasn’t her first album. That came all the way back in 1991, when Alanis Morissette was still a teenager living in Ottawa and performing as a dance-pop star. Her debut full-length album, Alanis, was only released in Canada, but the record did well here. It went platinum, and its single, “Too Hot,” climbed all the way into the Top 20 on the charts. It earned her three JUNO Award nominations, and she won the award for Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year. Her follow-up album did pretty well, too. The ballad-driven Now Is The Time went gold in Canada and put three singles into the Top 40. Alanis became known as the Canadian answer to Tiffany.

But something was missing. “There was an element of me not being who I really was,” Morissette later told Rolling Stone magazine. “The focus for me then was entertaining people and getting my feet wet in the business, it was about being young and having fun as opposed to sharing any revelations I had at the time.”

Her next album would be a very different affair. By the time it was released, Morissette had graduated from high school. She had moved from Ottawa to Toronto and then to Los Angeles, writing new songs with a new songwriting partner. She signed with Madonna’s new Maverick label. Her old records were pulled from circulation and ignored by the new publicity material. She changed her public name from just plain “Alanis” to “Alanis Morissette.” It was a dramatic break from the past: her new record would be filled with grungier, more mature and much more personal songs – and it would make her an international superstar.

Jagged Little Pill was released in the spring of 1995. It featured six smash hit singles: “You Oughta Know,” “Ironic,” “Hand in My Pocket,” “You Learn,” “Head Over Feet” and “All I Really Want.” A few of them quickly took their place among the defining songs of the entire decade. The record became a landmark album – not just for Morissette’s own career, but for the history of Canadian music and for the entire history of rock ’n’ roll in the 1990s. Jagged Little Pill would rank as the top-selling pop record of the decade, racing up the charts in countries all over the world. In Canada, it spent 24 weeks in the top spot and won five JUNO Awards.

It was during this week in 1995 that the album’s popularity hit its very peak. While Morissette appeared on the covers of both Rolling Stone and Spin magazines, Jagged Little Pill landed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

“YOU OUGHTA KNOW” BY ALANIS MORISSETTE

This Week in Music History: September 22 to 28

Posted on: September 23rd, 2014 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By Adam Bunch

The Ugly Ducklings (left); Anne Murray (right)

THE TORONTO SOUND

It was the 1960s. Toronto was home to one of the most exciting music scenes on the planet. Every night of the week, the sounds of rock ’n’ roll, soul and folk music could be heard spilling out of the clubs in Yorkville and along the Yonge Street strip. Some of the biggest names in music called the city home over the course of that decade: early versions of The Band and Steppenwolf; solo performers such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell; and future members of The Mamas and The Papas, and The Lovin’ Spoonful – all of them future Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees.

Along with them were countless other bands, from chart-topping stars to local kids playing high school dances.

“It’s a wonder there are any kids left to listen to music in this town,” journalist Bruce Lawson wrote in the Globe and Mail, “they’re all turning to do-it-yourself rock… forming part-time groups like locusts form swarms.”

Bruce Palmer, who would eventually head to Los Angeles and become famous as the bassist for Buffalo Springfield, called Toronto “the most hard-rocking city of its time.”

The city, in fact, developed its own distinct flavour of rock ’n’ roll: what they called “The Toronto Sound.” It was a fuzzy and raucous R&B that many found hard to pin down.

“Ask them to describe it,” according to Lawson, “and they shrug their shoulders, shuffle their feet and say it’s not as relaxed as Nashville; not as up tempo as New York or Detroit; a solid natural beat, something like the Coast. But different.”

Almost everyone did agree, though, that the sound had been deeply influenced by Robbie Robertson, who made his name with his raunchy guitar work on the high school dance circuit before heading to Yonge Street and joining the band that would eventually become The Band.

It was during this week in 1966 that the Toronto Sound had its biggest showcase. For 14 straight hours, 14 of the best rock ’n’ roll bands in the city took the stage at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Ugly Ducklings. The Paupers. Luke and The Apostles. The Big Town Boys. Little Ceasar and The Consuls. Bobby Kris and The Imperials. A song from every set was broadcast to listeners on CHUM Radio, while some of the most influential record producers in the business came to see it all in person. Maybe most important of all: 16,000 screaming fans crowded the city’s biggest hockey arena – more than had come to see The Dave Clark Five. Or The Beach Boys. Or The Rolling Stones.

“NOTHIN’” BY THE UGLY NOTHING

*****

A BIG HIT FOR ANNE MURRAY

It wasn’t Anne Murray who wrote it. It was another Canadian: Gene MacLellan, a singer-songwriter from Prince Edward Island who was a familiar face on the CBC. His work would be covered by legends such as Bing Crosby, Joan Baez and even Elvis Presley. But it was Anne Murray, who would be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1993, who made the most famous version of his most famous song. It was during this week in 1970 that “Snowbird” peaked in the Top 10 of the Billboard charts.

“SNOWBIRD” BY ANNE MURRAY

This Week in Music History: September 15 to 21

Posted on: September 16th, 2014 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By Adam Bunch

Bachman-Turner Overdrive (left); Notre-Dame Basilica de Montréal, home to the great Casavant organs (right, via Bonjour Québec)

BTO’S BIGGEST HIT

In 1974, Bachman-Turner Overdrive was at the top of its game. The band’s new album, Not Fragile, would be its third, and it would also prove to be its most popular. It was released that summer and raced up the pop charts. It would peak right at the very top, sitting at No. 1 – the only BTO album to ever climb that high.

The success of the record was due in no small part to the album’s most famous single. The song was originally written as nothing more than a joke, but it proved to be one of the band’s most popular songs ever. “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” was released during this week in September 1974, and by the time November had rolled around, the track had followed in the footsteps of the album that birthed it: hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 – the only BTO single to ever climb that high.

And the song continued to sell long after that. In 1976, it won the JUNO Award for being the best-selling single of the year. Even 40 years later, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” is still a staple of Canadian radio playlists and of sunny cottage afternoons all over the country.

“YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET” BY BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE

*****

CANADA’S FOUNDING CHURCH ORGANS

It’s not entirely clear when the sounds of a church organ were first heard in Canada – the details have been lost to history. However, we do know that it happened a very long time before our country officially became its own nation. In fact, church organs had been filling the air of New France with religious hymns for more than 200 years before Confederation.

We know that two organs at two different churches in Quebec City were installed sometime around the middle of the 1600s, when the city was still only a few decades old. They are thought to have been the very first church organs to be played anywhere in the eastern half of North America. The British colonies wouldn’t get their first organ until the early 1700s.

But perhaps the most important early church organ was the one that arrived in Quebec during this week in 1663. It was brought to New France all the way from the old France by François de Laval, the first Roman-Catholic bishop of Quebec, who was officially made a saint by Pope Francis earlier this year. His organ replaced one of those early ones in Quebec City and was used as a template to build many more. Clergymen who had enough skill used it as a guide to make their own copies out of wood.

And so, the music spread. Even now, 350 years after the bright notes of the first pipe organ were heard in Quebec City, the instruments are still found in cities, towns and villages all over Canada. Today, you can find our country’s oldest surviving pipe organ in the village of Kingston in New Brunswick. It was built in England all the way back in 1785.

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