By James Sandham
Well folks, we’ve already got one autumn holiday under our belts – along with several pounds of turkey and a few thick slices of pumpkin pie. But hold on, because the celebrations aren’t over quite yet. You may have thought it was finally safe to put away the decorative gourds, but no, not so fast! You might as well keep ’em out, because it’s time to carve them into demonic semblances of our worst Thanksgiving table guests, which is to say that it’s almost Halloween. Call it the dessert course to Thanksgiving and give these tunes a spin to help get you in the spirit.
BUCK 65 – “ZOMBIE DELIGHT”
Well, well, what do we have here? It’s CBC Radio 2’s Rich Terfry (a.k.a. Buck 65) and a whole lot of zombies – many of whom appear to be played by Terfry himself. As do the zombie killers. As do the generals and news anchors. This tune has taken a turn for the terrifying, indeed!
ROBBIE ROBERTSON – “GHOST DANCE”
We’ve survived the zombies, so how about we check in with Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Robbie Robertson to see how we do up against the ghosts? This track comes from Robertson’s 1994 album, Music for the Native Americans, which was really his first foray into writing songs inspired specifically by his Mohawk heritage. Suffice it to say that this song isn’t so much about the sort of ghosts that go “boo,” but is more about the historic oppression of indigenous cultures in North America, which is really the more frightening of the two concepts.
WILL SMITH AND DJ JAZZY JEFF – “NIGHTMARE ON MY STREET”
Alright, let’s lighten things up – and what better way to do so than with the musical work of Mr. Will “Big Willie Style” Smith? This track, which bears a striking resemblance to a certain TV theme song, joins a long list of tunes that pay tribute to that king of 1980s horror Freddy Krueger. If you grew up in the ’80s, this will probably still give you the shivers (the vocal presence of Will Smith notwithstanding).
BRUCE COCKBURN – “GET UP JONAH”
Now let’s check back in with our Canadian Music Hall of Fame alumni. This little ditty comes from the CMHF’s 2001 inductee, Bruce Cockburn, and while it’s not exactly “scary” per se (that is, there’s no mention of zombies or ghosts or the suffering of our country’s Aboriginal Peoples), it does have some pretty dark imagery, including these lines: “There’s howling in the factory yard/There’s pounding in my head/I’m swollen up with unshed tears/Bloated like the dead….” And yet Cockburn manages to make it all sound so sweet.
MICHAEL JACKSON – “THRILLER”
Last but not least, what’s a Halloween playlist without Michael Jackson’s macabre mega-hit? “Thriller” is a must-have contemporary classic and it really brings us full circle with our songs: right back to those irrepressible zombies. In fact, I think it’s a safe bet that this song may have been something of an inspiration for Buck 65’s zombie tribute – specifically his line that when it comes to zombies, “there’s very little information and no answers/One weird thing is that they’re excellent dancers.”
Hope these songs get you dancing, too. Happy Halloween!
By James Sandham
Is it too early to already be looking forward to the Canada Day weekend? That’s a rhetorical question, obviously; long weekends are what we live for in the summer! And what better way to get in the mood than with some great tunes by some amazing Canadian artists.
Here are five songs to get your Canada Day playlist started. If you’ve got any other suggestions, be sure to tell us what they are in the comments section!
THE TRAGICALLY HIP – “BOBCAYGEON”
So this one’s pretty much a no-brainer. A Canada Day weekend that doesn’t feature at least one rendition of The Tragically Hip’s “Bobcaygeon” would be like a Canada Day weekend without a barbecue, without a case of cold beer, without fireworks – practically inconceivable, in other words. “Bobcaygeon” comes from the Hip’s sixth album, the multi–JUNO Award–winning Phantom Power, and it won the 2000 JUNO Award for Single of Year. The band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
BRUCE COCKBURN – “LOVERS IN A DANGEROUS TIME”
OK, so now that we’ve got the obligatory playing of “Bobcaygeon” out of the way (and let’s be honest: we’ll probably play it a few more times before the weekend’s over), we can move on to other musical delights. Few are more delightful than this gem from Bruce Cockburn’s 1984 album, Stealing Fire. Back in 2005, CBC Radio named it the 11th greatest Canadian song of all time – and here I was under the impression that it was written by The Barenaked Ladies!
BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE – “HEY YOU”
Now here’s a bunch of hirsute fellows! That look can’t be comfortable in the summer. Hairy commentary aside though, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2014 inductees, certainly earned their place among the greats, in no small part on the strength of songs like this one. “Hey You” comes from the band’s 1975 album, Four Wheel Drive, and was the record’s biggest hit, reaching No. 1 on the Canadian charts. All these years later, it still sounds great.
APRIL WINE – “ROLLER”
Well, after all that BTO, it seems this playlist’s taking our long weekend in the direction of the 1970s, which is awesome, because that’s where April Wine is. Specifically: this gorgeous track from 1978’s First Glance, the band’s first record to go gold outside of Canada. This just might be the secret ingredient needed to turn your Canada Day barbecue into a smorgasbord of flared-out excellence. Might want to make sure the beer pail’s stocked before this one comes on.
BLACK DUB – “RING THE ALARM”
Canada Day is the quintessential holiday of the Canadian summer. I like a good dose of reggae during my summers, and Tenor Saw’s short but excellent catalogue of old-school reggae riddims is often my go-to, which is why I was so intrigued to discover Black Dub’s cover of his hit “Ring the Alarm.” Black Dub is a collaborative project instigated by Daniel Lanois, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2002 inductee, which also features one of my favourite drummers, Brian Blade. What do you think of their take on this track? They definitely went in a fresh direction with it.
Hope your Canada Day is a happy one!