Archive for January, 2011

Robert Plant Interview

January 30th, 2011
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Robert Plant, it seems, does everything different these days. When an artist plays Toronto one weekend, and New York the next, it is normal that New York is the one everyone talks about, even while the artist is in Toronto. For Robert Plant, who is playing New York this weekend to a wall of silence, last weekends Toronto shows are again being talked about.101201-robert-plant

The Observer’s Ed Vulliamy spent last weekend with Plant in Toronto talking in depth with Plant about his motivations for performing, how he gets to the shows, and the Wolverhampton Wanderers.

“There’s no plan,“ Plant tells Vulliamy, “this band has a life of it’s own.” Those are key words. When wondering what will Plant do, he is just as much in the dark as you are. Last week I penned a piece called, What’s Next for Robert Plant? chronicling his desire to write with Band of Joy after telling Rolling Stone he was done writing. The real answer to the question what’s next for Robert Plant lies in that answer, “there’s no plan.” And if that means Robert Plant is moving on from where his fans are musically, drifting out of significance, he understands that:

The further I get into it, the harder it will be to get a gig in the Top Rank. I won’t fit. If I continue doing this, it will mean obsolescence for me… I’m just incredibly fortunate that my eyes and ears have been opened. I have to be honest with myself and remove as much of the repetition and fakery as is humanly possible.

Unlike other interviews, other comments, Plant is also more conciliatory, less dismissive, towards his time in Led Zeppelin:

“We were great when we were great. I was part of something magnificent which broke the Guinness Book of Records, but in the end, what are you going to get out of it? Who are you doing it for? You have to ask these questions: who pays the piper, and what is valuable in this life? I don’t want to scream ‘Immigrant Song’ every night for the rest of my life, and I’m not sure I could.

Comments like “who pays the piper,” probably say more about why Robert Plant turned down huge money for a Led Zeppelin reunion. A tour the size of Zeppelin would be a machine grinding away at Plant’s creative impulses. Besides, how would a reunited Zeppelin get to the gigs? Not, I suspect, by Plant’s preferred method:

It’s all by bus. It’s a great way to see America and a great way to meet interesting people. But most of all, I want to be on these kinds of terms with these kinds of people. There’s no point in doing it any other way, and if I did, I’d feel uncomfortable. I’ve got a big name, but I’ve always wanted to be in a band, one of a band… I do not want to arrive to join the band in a limo.

Plant is also less dismissive than he has been about other artists continuing to play their old songs, touring with 40 year old music:

It would become progressively more difficult to talk about music at a whist drive. All my colleagues that I’ve known and loved – our lives have been lived in parallel for 40 years – and you have to say: each to their own. People get off on what they want to get off on – I’m not going to tell anyone how to live…

Leaving aside his comments, direct or indirect, about Led Zeppelin, Plant has a lot to say about The Band of Joy as well.

I wonder sometimes, how did I get into this family of people?” Sometimes I feel as though I’m not contributing so much as getting away with it… this band has a life of its own. It’s breaking down all the terminologies; all the terms that apply to different genres are being torn asunder.

It’s about contribution. Everyone is throwing themselves into this abstraction called Band of Joy, and no one knows what it is. But we know how to find it, and we go looking. I asked Nic (Nicola Powell, his manager from Merthyr Tydfil ) if my rambling between songs on stage is getting too obscure. She says no, it’s just about mad enough to capture the spirit of the thing

Why, at his age, does Robert Plant keep doing it at all when he could easily retire to the Black Country, watching the Wolverhampton Wanderers and minding the legacy of Led Zeppelin?

I would say it was restlessness if it was not something else, which is inquisitive curiosity and the need to challenge myself. It’s a two-dimensional gig being a singer, and you can get lost in your own tedium and repetition.

Plant’s inability to not get lost in tedium and repetition is what fans both love and hate about him. It explains the great moments in his career, why Led Zeppelin didn’t stop progressing after Led Zeppelin II, or their fourth album. It also explains why he is riding the busses with Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin and not jetting around the world with Led Zeppelin; why he is doing two nights at The Beacon Theatre and not seven at Madison Square Garden; why Rock and Roll is now a bluegrass number.

The Band is getting better as well, Plant tells Vulliamy. “Something went up a notch in Ann Arbor( the night before Toronto).” It continues into the Toronto show:

a spell of sorts descends on the Canadian theatre, too, an alchemic moment, and the musicians Cheshire cat grin at one another, because they know.


The Freedom of Music: Dancing In The Dark

January 30th, 2011
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Dec 31, 2010 6:25 PM
This shall be one long lonely night.

The above was written on the Facebook wall of somebody I’m close enough to be bothered by it. It wasn’t serious, not a cry for help or a desolate person in desperate need of company. But left alone on new years, she felt a little saddened by it.

sidebar-1I didn’t have a wild and crazy new years eve myself, although I was out among friends. A few drinks, some nice finger food to nibble on and the conversation of a couple of good friends. Did I drink? Why yes you honour. Much? No, not very much at all. Which perhaps explains how, at around noon on New Years Day, I was working out.

I put Bruce Springsteen’s Live at Hyde Park, a Christmas present, in the DVD player to work out with. As it was playing, Dancing in the Dark came on:

Message keeps getting clearer,
Radio’s on and I’m moving around the place.
I check my look in the mirror,
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face.
Man I ain’t getting’ nowhere, just sittin’ in a dump like this
There’s something happenin’ somewhere, baby I just know there is.

Stay on the streets of this town, they’ll be carvin’ you up all night.
They say you gotta stay hungry, hey baby! I’m just about starving’ tonight.
I’m dying for some action, I’m sick of sittin’ round here trying to write this book,
I need a love reaction, c’mon baby give me just one look.

Springsteen has always had that one line, that phrase that could express so much. The intensity and passion of Born to Run, summed up in:

I wanna die with you Wendy on the street tonight,
In an everlasting kiss.

The sadness of The River:

And for my nineteenth birthday,
I got a union card and a wedding coat.
We went down to the courthouse,
And the judge put it all to rest.
No wedding day smile, no walk down the aisle,
No flowers no wedding dress.

You kind of know that’s not going to be a happy song.

But Dancing in the Dark was always different. It was the pop song, the song Courtney Cox danced to. It meant, well, nothing much.

In fact, it may have meant something very much more. During recording of Born in the USA, Springsteen’s manager and producer Jon Landau sent him home one night with a simple instruction: the album is good to great but it needs a hit. It needs a radio song. Go home and write it.

He did. Interesting then that he references writing so prominently in Dancing in the Dark:

I’m dying for some action,
I’m sick of sittin’ round here trying to write this book,
I need a Love reaction…

Suppose you change the word book for song, and it’s not hard to imagine you are looking into Bruce Springsteen’s very heart at that moment. It seems light enough, until…

“This shall be one long lonely night.”

It’s the knowledge that someone you love is lonely that changes the song. It becomes not a dance song, but a sad song with a happy face.

When the Born in the USA album came out, there was a fair bit of remark about Springsteen’s appearance. A once gaunt, skinny, weak looking kid (well, young man), he was now muscular, built up on weights. Meanwhile his foil, The Big Man, Clarence Clemons, had also hit the weights, adding bulk, losing fat. Springsteen gained weight, it was reported, Clemons lost. It seems unremarkable, except:

I check my look in the mirror,
I wanna change my clothes my hair my face.

Again you ask yourself, was Springsteen giving us a peek into his very darkest place, at 120 beats per minute of happy synthesizer pop?

And again you remember the words of Jon Landau: “go home and write a hit song.” Not a carefully crafted examination of your psyche. Not a scream for help. A pop song. So Springsteen did, all the while leaving a song that 25 years and hundreds of listens later, there was still something there to be discovered.

“That’s why,” as Clemons said in his recent autobiography, Big Man , “he’s the boss.”

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Saturday Fluffernutter: Like A Rockstar Edition

January 29th, 2011
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All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorLast year Bob Seger suggested on a Detroit radio show that a fall tour was in the works. The fall shows never happened, apparently because Seger put the kibosh on them at the last minute. This year he surprised his people by telling them, reschedule for the spring.

Seger will be hitting select venues in select cities with the Silver Bullet Band, working 30 – 40 dates around drummer Don Brewer’s schedule. Reportedly he will be playing classic Bob Seger music as well as songs from a new, unreleased, unfinished album.

fluffincolorWhen Bob Seger hit’s the stage, he should take to heart the warning that Jimmy Buffet provides: Buffet was unconscious for ten minutes and spent a couple of days in hospital after falling off the stage in Sydney Australia this week.

Buffet stepped to the front of the stage at the Hordern Pavilion and misjudged where the stage ended, falling 30 feet to the concrete floor below. No word on whether the little birdies circling Buffets head were flying clockwise or anti-clockwise

fluffincolorRock star rumble: In an article in Rolling Stone a few weeks ago, Robert Plant, justifying his choice to make mediocre adult contemporary instead of reuniting with his old mates, Led Zeppelin, said:

There’s nothing worse than a bunch of jaded old farts, people who have written their story… I don’t deal in that, and I don’t deal in people who deal in that.

Who could he be calling out here? I’m sure we could all think of a few names, but Alice Cooper wouldn’t have been one.

None the less, step right up, Alice Cooper:

Jimmy Page wants to do it. John Paul Jones wants to do it. And they got Bonham’s son, who is a killer drummer. All they need is Robert Plant. But what is Robert Plant out there doing? Playing folk music! What is he doing?

Careful Robert, he’s got a snake.

fluffincolorMotley Crue singer Vince Neil was sentenced to 15 days house arrest Wednesday after pleading guilty to DUI. He was arrested for driving his Lamborghini 60MPH in a 40 zone in Los Vegas last June, and found to be over the legal alcohol limit. And Wednesday was a good day for Neil this week.

By Friday, reports had surfaced that Neil is being investigated for up to $1Million tax evasion.

Tax evasion is no 60 in a 40 zone, as Wesley Snipes can testify.

fluffincolorNot a rock star, but Charlie Sheen think he is one. This week Sheen went on yet another bender, this one ending with TV’s highest paid actor in the hospital. Very Rock Star.

His hospital stay is being reported as a hernia, which is, alas, very not rock star. Sorry Charlie.

fluffincolorShe may not be a rock star, but she plays the daughter of one on TV. And now, for the second year running, Miley Cyrus is listed as AOL’s’s “worst celebrity influence.”

See Charlie, that’s how Rock Stars do it.

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Setting the Bar on Capital Punishment

January 28th, 2011

I was listening to Charles Adler the other day and he seemed bemused by the recent Abacus poll that said 66% of respondents are in favour of the death penalty, but only 41% are in favour of actually reinstating capital punishment. It was, he said, a typically Canadian response: we favour the penalty, but don’t want the fight.

elmuseet_elektrisk_stolHe seems to miss, or ignore the possibility that you can favour it in principle, but not trust it in practice. My man Russ Campbell doesn’t, (by the way, buy his book) arguing he’s in favour as long as we set the bar so high, mistakes can’t be made:

Set the bar high so we are unlikely to execute innocent people, but don’t victimize society a second time by having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to house and guard killers, rapists and child molesters, who will not ever be rehabilitated.

Which leads to the question, how high is high enough?  If, for example, a young man is convicted of killing an ex-police officer, on duty as a security guard, with a sawed off shotgun. If, after seventeen years, all his appeals are exhausted and the system has found him guilty over and over again, is that a high enough bar? Twenty years? Twenty five?

Under those circumstances, if Iowa had the death penalty in 1977, Terry Harrington would almost certainly be dead. In July 1977 an ex-cop was killed by a shotgun blast while working as a security guard at a car dealership. Nineteen year old Harrington was at an Ohio Players Concert in Omaha, across the river, the night the murder took place. None the less the young football player, smart enough to be considered for a Yale scholarship (according to Harrington himself), found himself accused of the crime.

Harrington was duly convicted, even though he had the best legal representation (or was that, a legal aid lawyer who wasn’t licensed to practice in Iowa?). His appeals process exhausted, Harrington was in prison for life, with no possibility of parole.

Along came prison barber Anne Danaher. She believed his story of innocence and, despite having even less legal training than Harrington’s trial lawyer, Danaher went to work. One day she requested the police files on the case, without identifying herself as working for Harrington. What she found in the multitude of files was a game changer: withheld police reports that identified another suspect, even though police testified at trial there never was another suspect.

After twenty-five years in prison, well past the point where he would have been executed in some states, Terry Harrington was released from jail. And while some may still argue he is guilty, it took twenty five years to get Terry Harrington below the bar.

It’s not a Canadian compromise to agree with capital punishment in principle but not in practice, it’s sound policy based on the evidence.

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Cool For Cats Friday

January 28th, 2011
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It was announced this week that Bob Seger is taking The Silver Bullet Band “on the road again.” Is there a greater song, a greater moment in rock ‘n’ roll than Turn The Page?

I didn’t think so:

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The Freedom of Music: Greatest Guitar Riffs

January 23rd, 2011


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

What are the best riffs in rock music? Satisfaction? Smoke on the Water? OK, how about Iron Man? What’s that you say: not a riff, a chord pattern. Not according to Spinner Magazine, which released a list of top 50 riffs and Iron Man made #3.

OK, forgetting for a minute that Iron Man is not a riff, who wrote this, a 13 year old boy? The list is littered, absolutely littered with bad choices, or strange choices. If I was doing a top 50 list, and had such a broad definition that Iron Man was included, it wouldn’t be on my top 100. If Iron Man is a riff, so is Taking Care of Business, which isn’t on the list.sidebar-2

Number 2 is Jimi Hendrix’s Vodoo Child (Slight Return), which although a great guitar part, again wouldn’t actually qualify as a riff in my book.

Then there’s Johnny B Goode at #5. Don’t mis-read me here, it is a great song, and one of the most important in Rock ’n’ Roll. When Bob Seger sings about clubs full of “Chuck’s children playing his licks,” he means Johnny B Goode. But what riff? It has two great solos, agreed. They are chock a block full of little licks, but there is no one riff in Johnny B Goode.

For our purposes, here’s a definition: a repeating melodic guitar line played harmonically. It cannot just be a chord pattern, like Takin’ Care of Business or You Really Got Me. It can, however, have a chord wthin it, like Jumping Jack Flash or Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. And it can be a lick that works around a chord. This is a little delicate, and is really a matter of personal choice, but Money For Nothing is in, Vodoo Child is out. And yes, Vodoo Child is one of the finest examples of electric guitar playing ever, I get that. I love it, and can’t pick up my guitar, turn on my wah-wah pedal and not riff on it. But not a riff.

Even bearing in mind my little rule, the Spinner list is odd. Look at the bottom half of the list: 43 In-a-Gadda-da-Vidda, 42 Beat It, 40 Sweet Home Alabama, 38 Life in the Fast Lane, 37 Pretty Woman. Does any rational music fan think Iron Man is a better guitar part than Sweet Home Alabama or Pretty Woman? And if you’re a metal, Ozzy, Sabbath kind of guy who thinks I‘m just being pissy because they only allowed one Led Zeppelin song, justify Crazy Train at 27. Go ahead, try it. Get stoned first, you still can’t do it.

And while we’re on the subject, what’s with this one Led Zeppelin song rule? Is it or is it not the top 50 guitar riffs? Not 50 riffs by 50 guitar players (excluding Eric Clapton). But if, as you say, you can make a convincing argument for most of Jimmy Page’s riffs, make it. Don’t just pick one – oh and Kashmir is a chord pattern, not a riff. Really, if I were making a list…

What, you thought I wouldn’t? To start, here’s Spinner’s top 10:

10. Enter Sandman
9. Money For Nothing
8. Back in Black
7. Sweet Child O’ Mine
6. You Really Got Me
5. Johnny B. Goode
4. Heartbreaker
3. Iron Man
2. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
1. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

And here’s somebody who has at least a vague idea what he’s talking about:

10. Jumpin’ Jack Flash – A better riff than Satisfaction, it is one of those great Keith riffs with a cool groove that provides the impetus for the rest of the song.

9. Day Tripper – Is there a more instantly recognizable riff than Day Tripper? A classic in every sense.

8. Oh, Pretty Woman – Not the Roy Orbison version. That’s a good riff, and certainly on any sane persons list, but Eddie Van Halen took that simple riff, sandpapered a rough edge onto it, and made it so much more.

7. Sweet Child of Mine – One of the great songs of rock ‘n’ roll starts up with a riff that is more complex, both technically and harmonically, than most without losing it’s rock appeal.

6. Sweet Home Alabama – First line in this song? Halfway through the intro, Ronnie Van Zandt simply says, “Turn it up.” Who hasn’t? Infectous is the obvious word to describe Sweet Home Alabama’s guitar riff.

5. School’s Out – Name any other riff that sounds great blasting through a cheap, tinny school PA system.

4. Aqualung – A riff so cool Ian Anderson based the melody of the song on it. If you were singing this lick to someone you wouldn’t mimic a guitar sound like you would most, you would sing “snot is running down is nose.”

3. The Ocean – One Led Zeppelin song? What kind of rule is this? Jimmy Page had so many, how can you settle on one. Hearbreaker, Black Dog and Trampled Underfoot could easily be on the list. I thought of dipping into the more obscure catalogue and picking a favourite, Out On The Tiles. But The Ocean is an almost perfect riff, laying out a great groove and riding it.

2. Crazy Train – Manual dexterity and a great rock and roll lick, how can a sane person put this riff anywhere but their top five. It is an almost perfect technical example of what a rock riff is. Randy Rhoades was one of the greats, and this is his very finest moment.

1. Whole Lotta Love – You didn’t think I was really going to stick with the one Led Zeppelin song rule, did you? Jimmy Page played this riff from the top of a double decker bus during Olympic closing ceremonies, and at the New York Stock Exchange to open the trading day. That makes it not just the greatest riff in rock history, but the most cultured.

    Honourable Mentions

  • Smoke on the Water – When they invented the fuzz pedal, someone said, “one day they’ll write the perfect song for this thing.” They did, and this is it.
  • Money – Pink Floyd’s coolest guitar line. Not really a riff based band, but this one is so smooth it belongs.
  • Funk 49 – Joe Walsh at his best.
  • Walk This Way – A great riff is singable. Walk This Way is the exception that prooves the rule.
  • 25 or 6 to 4 – The second riff kids learn on the guitar. Simple and singable the mark of a great riff.
  • Fire – Not technically a guitar riff, but a bass one. None the less, the Springsteen classic has such a slow, cool hook.
  • Tush – A song about checking out sexy women with the sexiest riff going. Perfect.
  • Free Ride – One of those can’t sit still riffs.

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Saturday Fluffernutter:

January 22nd, 2011
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All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorThe Golden Globes were held last weekend in Hollywood and Comedian Ricky Gervais hosted most of the show. After his opening monologue, however, he disappeared for over an hour. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who’s awards the Golden Globes are, were apparently unhappy with some of his jokes. fluffposter01sample1Hollywood can be cutting and cruel to those they disagree with, but taking a ribbing themselves is over the top. Gervais was, to the whiny, self centred Hollywoodistas, over the top.

Gervais himself says he won’t be back, saying twice (he hosted the show last year, as well) is enough. Which is Cockney for, “my act has worn thin.”

Sigh – enjoy next years Golden Globes, to be hosted by… Mary Hart?

I’m trying to decide what Robert Downey Jr. would say if Sarah Palin was as easily offended as this group of egoists.

fluffincolorNot Mary Hart, you say? OK, how about Regis Philbin.

The debonair heartthrob to Grandmas from Des Moines to Debuke, Philbin told the live audience of his show, Live with Regis and Kelly, that he was retiring at the end of the summer.

Philbin, who is 79, told the audience, “I’m almost 80, let me retire for F&$k Sake.” Or something.

The question is, would the ever likeable, and polite Philbin put down his Mah-Jong tiles to host the Golden Globes next year?

pinkfluff1Golden Globe big winners: Anne Hathaway and Olivia Wilde had the nicest dresses of the evening.


  • The Social Network: best Drama
  • The Kids are Alright: best Comedy
  • Natalie Portman: best actress
  • Colin Firth: best actor

fluffincolorThe sequel to Batman Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, is in pre-production and they have stepped up big. Anne Hathaway has been slotted in to adorn the skin tight cat suit, performing the role of Cat Woman. Um… meow?

Christian Bale will reprise his Batman role, returning for part II of the “overrated movie of the decade series.”

fluffincolorCongratulations to Owen Wilson and his girlfriend Jade Duell (there’s a sexy name) who had a boy last week. The name: Robert Ford.

One question. Is it that coward Robert Ford? Or that Big Fat Sweaty Mayor Robert Ford?

fluffincolorDon Kirshner (1934 – 2011): 70’s music fans like myself recall Don Kirshner as the guy from “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,” the only opportunity rock fans had to see their favourite bands on TV.

To earlier fans, he was a music industry insider, who found artists to sing songs of songwriters like Neil Sedaka or Howard Greenfield. In 1966 he was hired to find music for a new TV show, The Monkees. He later left that show to work on The Archies, saying of the animated band: “I want a band that won’t talk back.”

He began his live TV show career working on ABC’s in concert in 1972. A year later he began Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert which featured almost every significant band of the 1970’s. The Rolling Stones appeared on the 1973 premier.

Kirshner died this week at the age of 76.

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Cool for Cats Friday: Robert Plant Comes to Town

January 21st, 2011
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Arriving in tepid Toronto this weekend, Robert Plant and The Band of Joy is doing 2 shows at the Sony Center. Here’s his latest video Can’t Buy My Love.

And the first Song off his latest album, my favourite Plant song in years, Angel Dance:

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I Won’t Give Up My Free Speech to Iran

January 19th, 2011
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They can prevent you from seeing the movie in Ottawa by threat of violence, but they can’t stop you from watching the movie in your own home. On Feb 8, the makers of Iranium are giving on on-line preview of their movie to the first 50,000 people who register.

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Money For Nothing: Cancon’s Not Free

January 17th, 2011
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Seeing as I post a semi-weekly item called Freedom of Music, it seems appropriate that I have something to say about Dire Straits, Money for Nothing being given illiberal treatment. First, there is some misconceptions to clear up.

dire3Mark Knopfler did not write Money for Nothing as an anti-anti-gay song. He was not commenting generally, or specifically on anti-gay sentiment. Unlike Mark Twain using the word, well THE WORD, in Huckleberry Finn, there is no evidence that he was making specific social commentary on homophobia.

Oh, I know: how do I know what Mark Knopfler was thinking when he wrote Money for Nothing? Well, I don’t. And neither do all the boring blow-hards trying to justify their anger at this decision by citing artistic merit and “context.” Context be dammed. It is bad when apparatchiks start telling you what you can and cannot hear on radio. Even if Money for Nothing was blatantly homophobic, it would be wrong for some government appointee to tell you you can’t hear it, full stop.

Which brings us to point two: the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) is not a government agency. However, it was set up under the guidance of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which is definitely a government agency. Lose you CRTC license, and you are out of business: lose your good standing with CBSC, and you lose your CRTC license. Radio stations that play the unedited version of Money for Nothing stand to lose their license. It may not be a government agency that censored the radio stations, but it has the full force of government behind it, so it may as well be: would, in fact, be better if it were, then you could phone you MP and demand correction.

imagesSome people have speculated that the ruling could affect more than just this one song. What about the Pogues Christmas song, Fairytale of New York? for example. Couldn’t they now ban that? Not could, did. In an interview with Charles Adler last week, Ron Cohen head of the CBSC said, “we didn’t ban the song, we banned the word.” With that a whole slew of songs are off the radio, including the song voted number #1 Christmas song by the stodgy old BBC listeners. Guns ‘N’ Roses song One in a Million is out too. Gone. Never to be played in it’s complete version on the radio.

The offence, however, some say, only applies to the word faggot. Fag is in, so Charlie Daniels Uneasy Rider is good to go:

…he’s a friend of them long haired, hippy-type, pinko fags! I betchya he’s even got a commie flag. Tacked up on the wall inside of his garage…

Here’s a game. You run a radio station, and somebody wants to play Uneasy Rider. “It doesn’t say faggot,” argues the DJ, “just fag.” Do you let him play it? Do you take the chance that your going to be hauled before the CBSC? Or do you take the easy route and say, play something else. I know what I’d do, and it wouldn’t have anything to do with one of the rock worlds funniest songs playing on my radio station. Ban one word, and it turns into a de-facto ban of how many others? In one fell ruling you can wipe dozens of songs off the radio.

And all of that doesn’t matter one whit. This is an issue of freedom, and in Canada we are less free today than we were at this time last week. Free countries don’t protect people by banning speech and songs: free countries protect people from from having their speech, or songs, banned.

That is what is wrong with this decision. It has nothing to do with the fact the song has been played thousands of times over twenty five years, no harm done. It doesn’t matter whether it’s pro or anti-gay song. When you argue those points, you concede that limits are appropriate. And once you have conceded that, then the argument is a drawing of the lines. Don’t want your favourite song banned from the airwaves, then don’t agree to lines, any lines being drawn. That is the way free countries act.

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The Freedom of Music: Todd Rundgren on Muzak

January 16th, 2011


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

It was almost 5PM on New Years Eve. I was in the grocery store, and they had already called for purchases to be brought to the cash, all the better for employees to finish their shift and get on with their celebrations. I was singing along to the song playing on the sound system: quietly to myself, not in a brash, annoy the rest of the shoppers kind of way – that would have to wait a few hours. The song was about halfway done before I realized it was Todd Rundgren’s Hello It’s Me.

Todd Rundgren, for those who don’t know the name, is one of those under the radar artists that people who follow music closely pride themselves on knowing. He produced Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell and Grand Funk’s We’re An American Band. He has had a number of albums, with different bands, runs his own studio and is very well known inside music circles. Hello It’s Me and the ever amusing Bang on the Drum All Dayare his best known songs. Yet Todd Rundgren has a vast and deep catalogue of music, much of it very good.

News item:

Todd Rundgren has dipped into his past to reform Utopia. The reunion will take place at a gig in New York on January 29.

The band will feature Rundgren on guitar with the 1974 line-up of Moogy Klingman (keys), Kevin Elfman (drums), Ralph Schuckett (keys) and John Siegler (bass).

This was the line-up that recorded the Utopia debut album Todd Rundgren’s Utopia. Klingman has been battling cancer for some time and is fighting what he calls his “health battle”. “I have found that the best medicine that I take to deal with illness is music,” he says in posting at his website.
“To play music and work with other musicians, is the most healing thing that I can do. So I plan to be performing at my benefit and healing the audience while the audience heals me.”

Rundgren put Utopia together as a prog-rock band after noticing the impact of acts like Genesis, Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Utopia will perform at the Highline Ballroom in New York on January 29. Money raised on the night will go towards Moogy’s escalating health costs.

While it’s the “original” line-up of Utopia, it is not, I think, the classic line-up. I would give that to the smaller, longer lasting 1976 -86 unit of Rundgren, Kasim Sulton, Roger Powell and Willie Wilcox. You may remember this formation of the band from their 1980 album “Adventures in Utopia,” featuring the songs Road to Utopia and Set Me Free.

I walked into the library in high school one day, and my best friend was sitting listening to a record. I didn’t even know you could listen to records at the library, and certainly would have imagined racks full of Bach and Mozart if I did know. How, or why, my high school came to own a copy of a fairly obscure rock record, I don’t know. But he was listening to the library copy of Utopia’s 1978 album “Ra“.

“You have to listen to this,” he said. “I love this song.”

The this he was referring to was the last track on Utopia’s last foray into the “prog-rock” akin to “Genesis, Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer,” (not to mention Gentle Giant). Singring and the Glass Guitar had the sub-heading “an Electrified Fairy Tale.”

Singring was the spirit of harmony, and got stolen and locked in a glass guitar. Their were four keys, that got tossed to the ends of the earth. Four brave adventurers had to travel to get the keys, each fighting an element (fire, wind, water) or fire breathing dragon to get to the keys. Each adventurer was represented by an instrument, each adventure a solo. When all four keys are rescued, the four adventurers march into town and unlock the spirit of harmony. As they do this, they replay their solos, this time together, in harmony.

It’s not exactly top 40 fodder, nor is it without an element of cheesy. But it is interesting music, more thought out an creative than most of what you hear today, whether on radio or the muzak system.

But that’s the point. Todd Rundgren isn’t your average pop musician, otherwise more people would have heard of him after a 40 year career. He’s a different breed, making music that he wants to make. And while he’s always been a hard guy to pin down, I feel reasonably sure Todd Rundgren isn’t making music so it can be played at Zehrs while your picking through the frozen food aisle.

Todd Rundgren is ours, us music aficionado types. And while he left some pop, Bang on the Drum All Day and the layered yet gorgeous Hello It’s Me in his wake, it feels like a cheat to hear it played at the grocery store.

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Saturday Fluffernutter: The Circling the Bowl Edition

January 15th, 2011
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All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorThe James Bond franchise will continue, after it was announced the next instalment in the classic franchise will go forth, with a Nov 9, 2012 release date. Daniel Craig will return as the super spy for the third time. It will be directed by the former Mr. Kate Winslet,39010007_lg Sam Mendes and Michael Sheen is being talked about for the villian, a reincarnated blofeld.

It looked for a while like the Bond franchise was finished, as Craig almost fulfilled prophesy and ruined the iconic brand with his petulant boy spy variation on the suave, sophisticated super spy. Fortunately, the franchise is stronger than one bad lead, and now that parent MGM is returning to financial health, the 23rd Bond movie looks like a go.

Now about that Bond girl…

fluffincolorIf it seems to you radio ain’t what it used to be, evidence that you are right: Britney Spears new song “Hold it Against Me,” broke a new record for most radio plays in one day upon it’s release Monday. In other words, according to the morons who run the radio you listen too, Britney Spears Hole it Against Me is among the greatest songs.

Radio: just another medium who’s end can’t come soon enough.

fluffincolorGreatest song ever or not, the Bellamy Brothers are claiming it’s not the most original song. It is, claim the Bellamy’s, a little close to they’re 1979 hit, If I said You Had Beautiful Body.

While they songs may resemble each other lyrically, it need to be said that The Bellamy Brothers never induced the flush reflex quite the same way as the new Spears floater does.

fluffincolorDavid Nelson (1936-2011)

David Nelson was a University student when he convinced his mom and dad, Ozzy and Harriet Nelson, to let him join their successful TV show. His younger brother, Ricky, was already a teen star due to the show. He played a fictional version of himself in the show, as did the rest of his family.

David died this week of complication from Colon Cancer. He was the last surviving cast member from the long running Ozzy and Harriet Show.

David Nelson was 74. May he Rest in Peace

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Cool For Cats Friday

January 14th, 2011
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It’s Dire Straits day in Hespeler, if for no other reason than because the pimply minions of bureaucracy don’t want it to be. First the “not a hate crime” Dire Straits:

Oh-oh what were those words?

The caretaker was crucified for sleeping at his post…
How come Jesus gets Industrial Disease?

Wouldn’t that violate certain UN approved blasphemy laws, and isn’t it hateful towards Christians? And what can a Betty Davis fan feel like when she hears that song?

Still and all, not quite hateful enough. Live, from the CBSC in idiotic Ottawa, Ontario, Dire Straits performing a Canadian hate crime: Money for Nothing:

P.S. to Alanis Morissette: Ottawa bureaucrats banning Money for Nothing is irony.

If you heard Charles Adler interview Ron Cohen yesterday, you’ll know it wasn’t the song they banned, it was the word “faggot,” Therefore, from the Department of One Fell Swoops:

And I suppose that “Well he’s a friend of them long haired, hippy-type, pinko fags! I betchya he’s even got a commie flag. Tacked up on the wall inside of his garage,” is out:

Now personally, if I owned a radio station, this one wouldn’t get airplay.

The CBSC didn’t ban one song, it banned a word, thus many songs.

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Jimmy Page: January 9, 1944

January 9th, 2011
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Dr. Jimmy Page, OBE, Playing Chopin’s Prelude in Em.

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Saturday Fluffernutter: The Now That’s a Hangover Edition

January 8th, 2011
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All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorShania Twain, country superstar, modern day Helen of Troy and single for about ten minutes, married her former best friend’s ex-husband, Frederic Nicolas Thiebaud. Don’t feel bad for the ex-friend however, as she struck first stealing Twain’s husband, Mutt “the dumbest man on earth” Lange.6a00e54f0014bd883400e54f8da74b8834-800wi

Twain and Thiebaud were married in Rincon, Peurto Rico on New Years Day. Thiebaud now holds the record for having the best hangover in history.

fluffincolorChuck Berry doesn’t drink or do drugs, but being 84 has got to feel like being hung over more often than it doesn’t. New Years day was a does day, as Berry fell ill during a show in Chicago.

He appeared tired and struggled through an hour of the show before stopping. Fortunately, he came back half an hour later to tell the audience he was OK. Berry’s representatives say he is fine and he is returning to his home in St. Louis.

Here at Fluffernutter world headquarters, we’re mentioning the true legend Chuck Berry when we pull out our prayer mat and bow towards Mecca.

fluffincolorFluffernutter Review in Brief – The Kings Speech: g-g-g-g-g-Great mm-mm-mMoovie. LllllLook for an o-o-o-o-Oscar for c-c-c-c-c-Colin ffffFirth.

fluffincolorJan 1, 2011: 1 1 11: The day all the cuties got married.

Serial cutie #2, Valerie Bertinelli married her second husband, Tom Vitale in California on New Years day. Bertinelli’s first husband, oh lets call him “Mutt Lange II” since “Eddie Van Halen” is already taken, was on hand, as was his bassist, and son with Bertinelli, Wolfgang.

The happy couple have been dating since 2003.

fluffincolorFluffernutter Review in Brief – True Grit: Very true to the story, and very gritty.

fluffincolorDavid Arquette had, to borrow a phrase, one hell of a New Years hangover. How so? He spent New Years Eve partying very hard indeed, then checked himself into rehab the next day.

I’ve had some hangovers in my time, swore off booze, uttered the phrase, “wish I was dead.” But I have never wasted a good hangover checking myself into rehab. That’s a hangover.

fluffincolorSo you had the big New Years Party. You were da’ man! David Arquette left you a message: “I never seen anybody so wasted!” he says.

You groan, roll over, wipe the eyeball boogers from your face and notice for the first time, your not alone: Meg Ryan is in bed with you. Yea well, some guys have all the luck:

John Mellencamp and his wife announced last week they are splitting up. Done. No more. This week the word hit’s the interwebs – do you need more proof – that Cougar is dating the ultimate cougar, Meg Ryan.

Don’t know if he has all the luck, but John Cougar Mellencamp certainly has gotten more than his fair share of it.

fluffincolorGerry Rafferty (1947-2011).

Saddened to hear the news that Stuck in the Middle writer and Baker Street ingénue Gerry Rafferty has died, aged 63, after a long illness.

While Rafferty is best known for the sublime Baker Street, and never forget Right Down the Line, which most obits have done, the most interesting Trivia Pursuit question about Rafferty is that he played in a folk duo with fellow Scot Billy Connolly. The Humblebums recorded three albums, two of the them with Rafferty, before splitting in 1970.

Baker Street is one of the rock eras works of genius. Agorgeous, layered textured song about life on London’s famous Baker Street in the swinging 60’s (where Rafferty busked), it features possibly rocks most famous sax line and a great guitar solo.

Rafferty is survived by his daughter. May he Rest in Peace.

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