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This Week in Music History: November 24 to 30

Posted on: November 25th, 2014 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By Adam Bunch


It all started in the basement of the Albert Hotel in New York City’s Greenwich Village. It was the early 1960s. A Toronto guitarist by the name of Zal Yanovsky had been living there with some friends and former bandmates, but most of them were gone now – they’d recently dropped acid, thrown a dart at a map and headed off to the Virgin Islands to become The Mamas and The Papas. Yanovsky stayed behind. Instead of becoming Papa Zal, he teamed up with another friend – a harmonica player named John Sebastian – and they started to write some songs together. When their neighbours complained about the noise, the pair was forced down into the hotel’s basement, where they rehearsed their upbeat pop tunes surrounded by cockroaches and puddles.

It was a humble beginning for one of the most popular bands of the 1960s: The Lovin’ Spoonful. But they would soon leave that basement behind. The band’s very first single, “Do You Believe In Magic,” headed straight up the charts, all the way to the Top 10 – and that was just the beginning. Their second single was called “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice.” It was released during this week in 1965. After that, they did it again and again and again. The Lovin’ Spoonful put every single one of their first seven singles into the Top 10 – a better start to their career than even The Beatles or The Rolling Stones had enjoyed. Three decades later, Zal Yanovksy would be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.




The story starts in the 1530s. That’s when the French explorer Jacques Cartier led an expedition up the St. Lawrence River – with more than a little help from the local First Nations – to become the first European ever to set eyes on that part of Canada. At the very same time that Cartier and his men were spending a winter stuck in the ice not far from where Quebec City is now, a new musical instrument was becoming popular back on the other side of the Atlantic. The European violin had gradually evolved from a series of Middle Eastern stringed instruments and now it was catching on.

It would be another few decades before Quebec City was founded, but when it was, the violin followed close behind. There were still only a few hundred people living in town when the first violins arrived. Many of those early inhabitants were Jesuit missionaries, and it was one of them who made an interesting note that has been passed down to us nearly 400 years later. It was during this week in 1645 that two violins were played at a wedding in Quebec City. It was, as far as we know, the very first time the sound of a violin was ever heard in Canada.


Five Songs Inspired by Books

Posted on: November 21st, 2014 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

Any writers out there? If you count yourself among this long-suffering lot, then you probably know what month it is: NaNoWriMo! That’s National Novel Writing Month for those of you not in the know, a frantic 30-day period during which writers around the world take pen to pad in the hopes of crafting a fully formed novel. To everyone else though, it’s just November – and it’s rapidly drawing to a close. Before it does (and whether you’re a writer or not), perhaps these book-inspired tunes will help stimulate your literary sensibilities, while also tickling your ears.

1. DAVID BOWIE – “1984”

This track comes from David Bowie’s 1974 album, Diamond Dogs, and was inspired by George Orwell’s iconic novel of the same name. Like most of the songs on Diamond Dogs, “1984” was originally intended to be part of a 1984-based stage musical, a dream that unfortunately never took flight for Bowie due to a veto by Orwell’s estate. While the production may never have happened, at least its musical element came to see the light of day.



Speaking of dystopian literary futures, I think Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World warrants mention – especially since its fictional drug of choice, soma, was the influence for this masterpiece of garage-rock revival. This tune comes from The Strokes’ 2001 debut, Is This It, an album that for many heralded a much-needed break from a long-uninterrupted era of boy bands.



Rush, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 1994 inductees, have several songs based on works of literature. The group’s 1976 album, 2112, for example, is reputedly based on Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem. However, this song is probably my favourite. Drawing from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, “Rivendell” pays homage, of course, to the fictional elven outpost of Middle-earth. In the video below, the song has been paired with scenes from director Peter Jackson’s cinematic interpretation of the place.



This isn’t just a song that’s been inspired by a book, but rather an entire album, which makes it all the better! A symphonic prog-rock re-interpretation of Jules Verne’s classic novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, this concept piece by Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman epitomizes a certain era in rock music: epic, decadent… and perhaps a bit indulgent. I guess you can thank projects like this one for eventually birthing us the backlash genre of punk!



The indulgent prog-rock of composers like Rick Wakeman may have given rise to the musical backlash that came to be known as punk rock, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be any overlap between the genres. The Ramones, for example – punks par excellence – were just as happy as Wakeman to look to literature for inspiration for their songs. Granted, in this case they’re drawing from a dime-store paperback horror novel, Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, as opposed to a Victorian classic, but perhaps therein lies the differential crux of these two genres. Either way, the music turned out great!

What other literary-inspired songs do you know of? Feel free to leave us some links in the comment section.

This Week in Music History: November 17 to 23

Posted on: November 18th, 2014 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By Adam Bunch


John Travolta was still a fresh-faced young actor back in 1980. He’d only played a leading role in two films at that point, but they happened to be two of the biggest films of the 1970s: Saturday Night Fever and Grease. They helped to make him an international superstar – and music played a very important role in both of those movies.

His new film would be no different. Travolta had already done disco and 1950s pop, now Urban Cowboy would capitalize on the popularity of country music. While the movie raked in money at the box office, the soundtrack would rocket all the way up the Billboard country charts to No. 1 – thanks, in part, to a smash hit by Anne Murray.

“Could I Have This Dance” followed the Urban Cowboy soundtrack on its journey up the country charts, hitting No. 1 during this week in 1980. It was already her fifth country chart-topper and the 10th time she’d broken into the Top 40 on the pop charts. Murray was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1993.




They called him the Godfather of Celtic Music in Canada: a Cape Breton folk singer so popular, in fact, that he was named a member of the Order of Canada and awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the East Coast Music Awards. There’s no doubt that John Allan Cameron left a deep and lasting legacy in folk music scenes from one end of our country to the other.

But it didn’t always look like he was going to have a career in music. In the 1950s, Cameron had started out thinking that he was going to become a priest, changing his mind and getting a papal dispensation only a few short months before his ordination was scheduled to take place. Instead, he found his true calling in the 12-string guitar. By the end of the 1960s, Cameron had released his first full-length album. Nine more would follow by the end of his career. He performed at the Newport Folk Festival and the Mariposa Folk Festival and for Canadian troops stationed all over the world. He also became a fixture on the CBC: first on the famous “Singalong Jubilee” TV program (which also helped to launch the careers of Catherine McKinnon and Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Anne Murray) and then, in the 1970s, as the host of his very own shows.

His impressive career spanned an amazing five decades and is remembered by the profound influence he had on more than one generation of Canadian folk artists. It was during this week in 2006 that John Allan Cameron passed away.


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