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Ongoing History of New Music
30 minutes | 3 days ago
The History of the Record Store
Before we begin, I am very aware that there are people listening to this program who have never, ever set foot in a record store…they came of age musical after the Internet changed everything about how we hear about, acquire, and consume music… But remember this: for over a hundred years, the only way you could hear music on-demand was to own it…you had to purchase a piece of plastic for x dollars and for that price, you could listen to that music an infinite number of times for no additional charge… You made not just an emotional investment in that music, but a financial one as well…and dammit, you were going to make sure you listened to that piece of plastic until you wrung out possible bit of enjoyment you could from it…otherwise, you’d have to come to terms with the fact that you wasted your money… There was another aspect to this emotional investment, too…in order to acquire this music, you had to leave your home, find your way to a record store, and search through all the shelves hoping the find something…if you were looking for something specific and it wasn’t in stock, you had to special-order it, which was a whole new level of emotional investment… And while you were at the record store, you interacted with records that you didn’t know about…just flipping through the racks looking at albums was an education in itself…maybe you’d go with a couple of friends, fan out across the store and then compare finds… Maybe you’d meet a stranger and strike up a conversation…and if you were a regular, it’s possible that the person behind the counter became a trusted source for recommendations…or maybe you’d go see an artist play live or for some kind of autograph session… Record stores are still with us, but there are fewer and fewer of them—certainly way less than the glory days of music shopping from the 60s through to the late 90s…and a lot of legendary stores and chains have disappeared forever… But while it lasted, it was pretty amazing…this is the story of the record store…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
26 minutes | 10 days ago
Hobbies of Musicians
What do you for fun?...hobbies, pastimes—things that you do just for you, away from your job and all your other responsibilities?... I’ve got my dogs…my wife and I like to travel…and I’ve always had this thing about the JFK assassination…I’ve read all the books, seen all the documentaries…I’ve even been to Dallas and the grassy knoll, and the book depository…I can’t explain it, but I just find it interesting… Maybe you’re into sports…collecting hockey cards or wine or rare scotches…video games, Japanese anime, beanie babies, souvenir spoons…no need to justify anything…it’s just something you enjoy doing…it fulfills you somehow… Now consider this….when we think of our favourite musicians, we probably imagine them being immersed in music all the time…I mean, 24 hours a day, seven days a week…all they do is think about music and make music… But the truth is, you can’t do that…no one can…everyone needs a break from whatever it is they do…you gotta rest the brain, recharge, and go on a search for new inspiration…put down the instruments and see what else is out there…become a more rounded person…that’s one aspect… Another is, “look…you’ve had some success in your career…you’ve made some money…enjoy it…indulge in those things that you’ve always dreamed of…you can’t take it with you, so spend some of that cash”… All right, so like what?...I think you may be surprised…let’s take a look at the hobbies and non-musical passions of some very famous musicians…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
27 minutes | 4 years ago
Big Bands from Small Towns
Let me say from the outset that I have nothing against small towns…I grew up in one myself…population: 2000…it was in the middle of the Canadian prairies…the nearest big city was Winnipeg…after that, you had to go at least 500 miles before you hit any major population centre… I also want to make sure to let you know that I think living in a small town is a not bad idea…it’s not…it can be a wonderful, low-stress, low-cost secure existence…a lot of the people I went to school with still live in my small town… But there are those who want out, people who want to experience more of the world…they find their lot dull, a dead-end, too far from where the action is…but how to escape?...that’s the problem… One way would be to just buy a bus ticket and hit the highway…you could join the armed forces…or maybe you could form a band, write song songs and become world famous…yeah, that’ll never happen…or could it?... There’s this old saying that all you need to change the world—your world—is three chords and an attitude…and it doesn’t matter where you’re from…you can be from the smallest town the map—even a town too small to be on a map—but if you get in with the right bunch of people and manage to pull together some good songs, who knows what might happen?... Here…let me give you some concrete examples…you don’t have to be from L.A. or London or some other big city…you can be from—wherever…these are some big, big bands who actually came from small, small towns…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
21 minutes | 23 days ago
The Post-Punk Explosion Part 7: All the rest
The original punk rock explosion of the 1970s was two things…first, it was a major reset for rock’n’roll…think of it as a great musical decluttering… Punk of the 70s wasn’t revolutionary…it was reactionary…the music was stripped back, and everyone went back to the basics…very important… Second, there was an attitude shift…one of the central tenets of punk was that if you had the guts to say something, then do it…and if no one wanted to help you, well, then do it on your own… Taken together, these two principles resulted in what can be described as the big bang for what would later be called “alternative music”…punk set off chain reactions of new ideas, new sounds, new attitudes, new fashion, new belief systems, and generally new ways of doing things… The gloves were off, rules were broken, concepts were explored, and unintended consequences happened…we now look back on this as the great post-punk explosion of the late 70s and early 80s, an era that created so many of the basic foundations of the music we hear today… There was new wave, technopop and all its subsets…industrial music, goth, and a revival of ska…those are the major post-punk genres…but there was more…a lot more… See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
24 minutes | a month ago
The Post-Punk Explosion Part 6: Ska
Every once in a while, music enters a state of flux where the direction of everything is, shall we say, undefined…we see and hear change but we’re not quite sure what it all means just yet…something is coming—but what?... All bets are off, the rulebook has been declared invalid, and everyone is off doing their own thing… I’ll give you an example…in mid-to-late 1950s Britain, popular music was evolving and mutating very quickly…in the midst of imported American rock’n’roll records, the skiffle craze, and various flavours of folk music, some young people rejected contemporary sounds in favour of something known as “trad jazz”… This was a revival of something close to Dixieland jazz from New Orleans, which emerged around the same time as world war 1…that meant music made with trumpets, the trombone, clarinet, the banjo, upright bass, and drums…the new acts mined the more pure, more authentic sounds of the past, hoping to be inspired again… And for a while, it worked…trad jazz was a thing until sometime in the 60s…everyone from pop songs to nursery rhymes were fair game for trad jazz arrangements… I’ll give you another example—and it’s tangentially related to British trad jazz…it also has its roots in Dixieland but took a detour through the Caribbean before appearing in central Britain at the end of the 1970s… That was also a time when the direction of music seemed undefined…on the bright side, it also meant that nothing was off-limits or out of bounds…it was the post-punk era…popular music had been shaken up by punk so much that people were more willing than ever to find new paths… This is part 6 of the post-punk explosion…it’s the time of Ska…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
23 minutes | a month ago
The Post-Punk Explosion Part 5: Goth
On April 10, 1815, a volcano erupted in the central part of the Indonesian archipelago…Mount Tambora blew up, ejecting nearly 200 cubic kilometres of debris into the atmosphere…all that dust circled the earth, blocking out a significant amount of sunlight… That blockage was so severe that the average temperature dropped almost a full degree…the result was that 1816 has gone down in history as “the year without a summer”… There were food shortages and famines and outbreaks of disease…and not only was it cold, but huge storms battered much of Europe… That summer, four artsy types were holed up at mansion called Villa Diodati near Geneva, Switzerland…to entertain themselves on through these dark, cold, wet, rainy days, these people drank, had sex, and took opium…and they tried to outdo each other by coming up with the best horror story… One of them, John William polidori, came up with “The Vampyre” about undead bloodsuckers 80 years before Bram Stoker wrote “Dracula”…meanwhile, 22-year-old Mary Shelley, conjured up the idea of a mad scientist who created a new being by sewing together the parts of dead people…she called her story “Frankenstein”… These two stories—imagined during the year without a summer, caused by the biggest volcanic eruption in 1300 years—created the foundation of gothic fiction, a type of horror that endures today…novels, movies, comic books, fashion styles, and yes, music… In fact, the music part of this equation has blown up to the both where Goth music culture is one of the biggest musical subcultures the planet has ever seen…and that explosion happened in the wake of the original punk era of the 1970s… This is the post-punk explosion part 5: Goth…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
21 minutes | a month ago
The Post-Punk Explosion Part 4: Alt-Dance
Dancing is as old as the human race…not long after we started walking on two legs, we found a groove and have been moving to the music ever since… Fast-forward several million years and we find that wherever there’s music, there’s dancing that goes along with it…okay, maybe they didn’t exactly bust a move to medieval hymns in the gothic cathedrals, but there had to be at least some swaying going on… We can’t help but move to the music….scientists have documented connections between the aural cortex and the movement centres of our brain…the millisecond we hear music, the motor cortex lights up, indicating a relationship between music, emotion, and the need to move in time with the music…in other words, we seem to be pre-wired to dance…not dancing (or at least moving to music) is unnatural… This caused some problems with some rock fans in the 1970s…dancing was seen as uncool, unless you were pogoing or slam-dancing to a punk band…and when disco came along—the most uncool music and scene of all—dancing was almost a crime…what were you, some disco weirdo?... Fortunately, that moratorium on dancing did not last long…the music and music fans needed to evolve to another level…and when that happened, dancing became not just okay but it was cool once again… This is a look at how that happened in the years immediately following the punk rock of the 1970s…it’s part four of the post-punk explosion—and it’s all about alt-dance…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
24 minutes | 2 months ago
The Post-Punk Explosion Part 3: Industrial
By the time we got to the mid-70s, rock had organized itself so that were rules…you did things this way and not that way…then came punk… One of the great gifts of punk rock was a reminder that you didn’t always have to follow the rules…once this attitude took hold, things began to fragment, metamorphosize and mutate at an increasingly rapid rate… The stratification and segmenting was astonishing…once punk began to cool, the environment it created coalesced into what became known as new wave, an approach that redefined what rock could sound like… Then new wave itself began to fragment, thanks to technology…the new cheaper, portable, and more powerful synthesizer was a godsend…you really didn’t have to know much about music to operate one…you just fiddled around until you found some cool sounds and then organized those sounds into a song… Like the original punks, attitude and a willingness to put your music out there was more important than musical ability—except this time, you did it with this new technology…synths instead of guitars…this was the foundation of what came to be known as techno-pop, which blew up at the end of the 70s… And it didn’t take long for techno-pop to separate into different strands which appealed to different people…some burned out quickly…new variants emerged for a while and then disappeared…and then there were the mutations that turned into something robust and enduring to the point where they still exist today… This episode is about one such strand that survived the post-punk explosion of the late 70s and early 80s…we call it “industrial music”…and word of warning: this show is going to be very intense, very loud, and very heavy…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
21 minutes | 2 months ago
The Post-Punk Explosion Part 2: Techno-Pop
For the longest time, the sounds of rock were made with voice, guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards like piano and organ…there were plenty of ways to manipulate the sounds of those instruments: effects pedals, studio tricks, happy accidents that happened when you least expected them… And for a couple of decades, this was plenty to work with…we discovered all sorts of techniques to create sounds that no one had ever heard before… But when engineers started messing with electricity in new ways, it became possible for musicians to create sounds that not only we’d never heard before but never imagined hearing…this resulted in an explosion of new, amazing music that was based mostly (if not entirely) on electronic sounds… Experimentation started in the 60s…these sounds worked their way into prog-rock in the 70s…and at the very end of that decade, the technology had become cheap enough for young musicians in the last months of the original punk rock scene to adopt these music-making machines as their own… I’m talking about synthesizers, of course…and as bands in sharp suits and skinny ties released spikey new wave pop songs, another group went all-in with synths…and in the post-punk era—which is to say the late 70s and early 80s—we had the era of era of techno-pop…here’s how that happened…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
26 minutes | 2 months ago
The Post-Punk Explosion Part 1: New Wave
If you’ve been around enough, you may remember those special times when you know that you’re in a middle of music history being made… You might be old enough to remember the early 90s…so much new and cool music—led by grunge but supported by all manner of alternative music—came out in ’91, ’92, ’93, ’94, and ’95 that you just knew you were in the midst of a very special time… It felt that not a day went by without there being a new song, a new artist, a new sound, and a new scene worth checking out…it was the alternative revolution—and it was awesome… and so much of it seemed directed at and just perfect just for you… But that was hardly the first time something like this happened…those who were teenagers in the middle 50s knew they were part of something special during the birth of rock’n’roll… The history of the 1960s was largely written in the music of that decade…starting with the Beatles in 1964, every day seemed to bring something new, exciting, and groundbreaking… If you were tied in with punk in the 70s, there was a sense among you and your friends that it was a really special time for music… But what i want to talk about is the era that came immediately after punk…punk changed the way people looked at music, breaking down artistic, social, and demographic barriers…basically, a new generation of musicians ripped it rock and started again…that’s punk in a nutshell… But that attitude didn’t end with the original punk rock explosion…instead, we saw an unstoppable chain reaction with resulted in sounds and styles and scenes that could not have been possible without punk… These sounds weren’t punk, but you could tell by listening that something like punk had to have happened for this music to exist… We now call this the post-punk era…and this period of time—roughly from 1978 through to the middle 80s—created the foundations for the alternative revolution in the 90s and beyond… This is the post-punk explosion part 1…and we begin with this thing called “new wave”…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
32 minutes | 3 months ago
50 Years of CanCon
Fifty years ago, there was no such thing as a Canadian music industry…well, at least not compared to the U.S. or the UK…we had bands that played gigs and recorded singles and albums…but there wasn’t much of an infrastructure to support a domestic scene… Too few recording studios…a lack of experienced promoters, managers, and producers…there was a tiny collection of domestic record labels…and there was a steady drain of talent to the united states…if you wanted to make it really big, you had to leave the country…that’s kind of discouraging, right? And Canadian radio stations weren’t helping…there was a perception that audiences did not want to hear much of this domestic music because, well, it wasn’t very good…it was inferior to all the music coming from America and England…this contributed to the overall opinion with the general public that Canadian music just wasn’t worth anyone’s time… At the same time, though, it didn’t seem right that our musical culture and our music scenes (such as they were) be overwhelmed by foreign powers…Canadian artists were getting smothered in the crib…something needed to be done…and five decades ago, something was done, beginning on January 18, 1971… It was difficult, expensive, and, in some quarters, wildly unpopular…but it turned Canada into a global musical powerhouse…this is fifty years of CanCon…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
22 minutes | 3 months ago
The Diversity Show 2021
Here is a truth that some people find very uncomfortable: rock, alt-rock and indie rock are predominantly white…why is that?...the answers—and there is more than one—are complicated…there has actually been a quite a lot of study on this question… Perhaps it’s because non-white people don’t choose this music as part of the way they project their identity to the world…culturally, they just don’t identify with these forms of music, so they naturally gravitate somewhere else… Others ask how this is different from someone choosing the music of their culture and ethnicity over that of another?...if you’re Italian, for example, the chances are you will have a greater affinity to Italian music than you would, say, gamelan music of bali… Here’s another truth: any form of music tends to reflect the shared sentiments of a particular community…. compare indie attitudes with hip hop…an indie band wouldn’t think of singing about drinking Cristal in the back of a Maybach while discussing the size of the diamonds in their new grillz…. neither would a hip hop artist rhapsodically describe their new pickup...neither would a rock band, for that matter… Each form of music has its own aesthetics…if they don’t mean anything to you on a cultural or emotional or personal level, then you’re not going to be into that music… Others don’t buy into this, seeing the non-whiteness of rock as a status quo barrier to people of colour who would like to participate but feel excluded, an outsider, unwelcome…they also see countless microaggressions, covert expressions of racism and continued cultural appropriation… We’re not going to solve any of these issues on this program…but I would like to acknowledge the contribution people of colour have made to the evolution of alt-rock…alt-rock is pretty white, yes—but not always…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
28 minutes | 3 months ago
Digital Debris Part 3: Liner Notes
When you listen to music through a streaming music service, how aware are you of what you’re listening to?...sure, you can look at the screen, but what does that tell you?...the name of the artist, the name of the song, maybe the name of the album…how much time has elapsed, how much is left in the song… But say you’re intrigued by what you’re hearing, and you want to know more…that means you’ve got to search the internet…Wikipedia is usually surprisingly accurate when it comes to learning more about a song or an album…who produced it, the engineer, the name of the studio, the supporting players, and so worth… I mean, it does the job, but it feels kinda lacking…a bit antiseptic… And then if you want lyrics, you have to search other sites…and again, these sites do a decent job, but…*sigh*… Okay, I’ll just say it…I miss liner notes…I miss being able to sort through all the printing in a cd booklet or on a vinyl record…there’s something mysteriously cool about learning something about the artist or the music by finding something buried in the liner notes… Writing and compiling this text used to be a big deal…people were paid good money and even won awards for writing liner notes…the industry has specialists for this sort of thing… But as we get deeper and deeper into the digital era, liner notes are disappearing along with the concept of B-sides and bonus tracks, and album artwork…it’s all part of the evolution of music culture… This is final part a series marking these changes…this is digital debris 3: liner notesSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
26 minutes | 3 months ago
Digital Debris Part 2: Album Artwork
A little while ago, I carved out some time to finally file some records and CD’s…I’d been procrastinating, but I finally summoned up the discipline to get it done…and honestly, it was a task that should have taken all of fifteen minutes… But it ended up taking longer than that because I kept stopping to examine the artwork and the liner notes of almost each and every compact disc and vinyl album… I’d forgotten how much I was into looking at my music collection…what was the artist trying to get across with the artwork on the front?...on the back?...on the inside?... Unless you’re still buying physical product, this is an experience that has been largely expunged from music culture…yes, there are digital liner notes and digital artwork and maybe you’re curious enough to check out the fields in the metadata after a right click on the file…but it’s just not the same… If you’re of a more recent generation, there’s a chance that you’ve never bothered with artwork and liner notes because you’ve always lived a digital life—and you have no idea what I’m going on about…but if you’re into vinyl and CD’s, you’ll understand how much things have changed… Yes, we must roll with the times, but the disappearance of old-school album artwork and liner notes has somehow diminished the music experience, just like how we’ve moved away from things like actual B-sides and bonus tracks…let me show you what I mean…this is digital debris part 2…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
23 minutes | 4 months ago
Digital Debris Part 1: B-Sides and Bonus Tracks
We are very, very deep into the digital world when it comes to music…virtually every song we could ever want is available to us instantly no matter where we are…all we need is an internet connection and we’re good to go… The music industry loves this…in the old days, they had no choice but to manufacture, warehouse, transport, and distribute physical product by the ton, sometimes across vast distances…once these CD’s and records and tapes made it into the stores, then the labels had to collect the money from the stores plus deal with the return of unsold product…it was all very complicated and expensive… Now with streaming, there’s no physical product…all the expensive overhead and those big fixed costs are gone…digital distribution is so much more efficient and profitable on every single level… And for music fans, this way of obtaining and consuming music is not just convenient, but intoxicating… Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp…tens and tens of millions of songs… for older people, this still feels like science fiction… And there are also generations who have never, ever set foot inside a record store…they’ve never, ever handled something like a record or a cd or a cassette…for them, music has always delivered without any kinds of container…it’s completely ephemeral, unseen zeroes and ones that beam from somewhere… While there will always probably be a market for music on physical formats, it’s going to shrink and shrink until it’s just a very niche-y thing…so be it…there’s no stopping progress… But we are losing something…there are certainly pleasures and advantages to CD’s and vinyl…it appears, though, that many of these pleasures and advantages are also heading towards near-extinction… I call this “Digital Debris”…here…let me show you what I mean…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
36 minutes | 4 months ago
Unfortunate Sonic Coincidences: The Lawsuits
Okay…let’s go over this one more time…there are just twelve notes in the western scale…the ways they can be combined to form pleasing sounds are finite in number…it’s a big number, but it’s still finite… If we look at chords—which are combinations of three or more single notes played simultaneously—the number is smaller still…and there are only so many ways in which chords may be played in a sequence that makes any sense to the ear and the soul… For example, there are dozens and dozens of hit songs with the same four chords at their root…e, b, c#, and a, played in that order… If I haven’t lost you to music theory yet, all these songs are constructed on those chords… “With or Without You” from U2, Green Day’s “When I Come Around” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” from the Smashing Pumpkins, and The Offspring’s “Self-Esteem”…plus “Don’t Stop Believin'’” by Journey, “Barbie Girl” by Aqua, and John Denver, “Take Me Home Country Roads”… In fact, there’s a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to what’s know as the “i-v-vi-iv progression”…it can be played in different keys (for example, “bullet with butterfly wings” is in b-flat while “self-esteem” is in c-major) and the chords can be ordered differently, but the common dna is there…this is just how our scale works and how songs are constructed… Now listen to me: this is not a sign that any of these artists lack in creativity… no one is breaking any rules…and no one is ripping off anyone because no one can have exclusive ownership over a chord progression… However, there is a subset of people—lawyers, mostly—who believe that they should be able to sue artists for plagiarism if there’s any perceived similarity between two songs…the original composer needs to be compensated for this alleged theft…even the threat of a lawsuit and jury trial might be enough to scare up some settlement money… This is insane…and the situation has been getting worse and worse…I think it’s time we deconstructed what’s happening with these crazy lawsuits that threaten to cripple all of music…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
32 minutes | 4 months ago
Theories, Thoughts, and Half-Baked Ideas
One of the byproducts of doing a show like this for as long as I’ve been doing it is that it’s really hard to shut off your brain… I’m always thinking about topic ideas, ways to link facts and trivia together, reading lots of books, talking to lots of people, and otherwise trying to come up with a constant stream of things we can talk about… The result of all this researching and thinking and writing are some ideas and perspectives on music, music history, how music is made, how it’s consumed and distributed, and how seemingly small things have led to big changes…that’s one thing… Another is the opinions formed by observing the opinions of others…why do people like some things and hate others?...and another is a list of ideas that aren’t quite fully formed…it seems like I’ve almost grasped a concept but it doesn’t feel right yet—but I feel that there’s a germ of truth in there somewhere… I’ve also learned that when you’re not sure about something, source the crowd…you might like the answers, but it’s better than living in your own head… So lemme bounce a few of these things off you and you can tell me if I’m onto something or if I’m off-base—or if I’ve completely lost the plot… I call this episode “theories, thoughts, and half-baked ideas”…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
39 minutes | 4 months ago
Every once in a while we come across someone who is famous and iconic for being...well let's be honest...nothing more than a monumental eff-up. There is nothing about them we should admire...but for some reason we find them intriguing...fascinating...compelling. This is the story of one monumental eff-up. Books have be written about him...movies done....his image has graces more T-shirts than you can imagine. And he was one of the least musically talented punk rockers of all time. This is the story of Sid Vicious. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
20 minutes | 3 years ago
Over the last decade, there has been some very, very long overdue attempts at reconciliation with the First Nations and Indigenous Peoples of North America…there’s still a long, long way to go, but at least the process as begun… The treatment of Indigenous people makes for ugly history…but it has also been enlightening in positive ways… For example, we’ve been learning more about First Nations music and the role people who identify as Native Canadians and Americans have played in the world of rock…some are full-fledged First Nations people…others have at least some Native blood… Some are well-known…others have been hiding in plain sight…and I think it’s time that we go through some of these contributions…See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
18 minutes | 5 months ago
The 2020 Xmas Show
This the 23rd annual ongoing Christmas show…and yeah, I know that 2020 has been a challenging year, but let’s look at some of the good things that happened… Many of us learned to bake bread…drive-in theatres made a comeback for both movies and concerts…sweatpants are now accepted work attire… “Tiger King” was fun, wasn’t it?...and—uh…well, i’m sure there were many other nice things about 2020… Oh!..oh!...less pollution because of less traffic…dog shelters were emptied out because so many people were adopting…we got out for more walks…oh—here’s a good one: Africa was declared free of polio in 2020…that’s definitely brilliant… 2021 will be a transition year…vaccines have to be administered, COVID cases will come down, and by this time next year, we’ll in a much better place…optimism is the best cure for anxiety… So with that...let's dive into some our annual not-so-traditional Christmas show.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
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