Archive for July, 2011

The Freedom of Music: How Big a Talent was Amy Winehouse?

July 31st, 2011
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

The death of Amy Winehouse has had a rather predictable initial outcome, a major boost in sales of Winehouse’s two albums, and a debate about whether she is a latter day Billie Holliday or another modern two bit product of minimal talent. I lean towards the former, although Shirley Bassey might be a comparison I’d be more inclined to make. sidebar-3

Amy Winehouse’ career spanned 9 years, beginning with her debut album Frank in 2003. In that 9 years – approximately the same period of time that the Beatles recorded together – she produced 2 albums worth of material, 24 songs. By comparison, Billie Holliday released 27 singles in the years 1936 and 1937. Any view of Winehouse needs to be tempered by the issue of her very small output.

There’s an Amy Winehouse story that has sat in my brain for the last week. On Saturday’s I write a celebrity culture piece, and after hearing about her death, I went back and reviewed the Amy Winehouse stories. Two and a half years ago, in March 2009, I noted that Winehouse had handed in her third album to the record company, an album with a strong reggae feel. The record company rejected it, telling her it was not a, “wise move to change her style so sharply.” Of course, up until record companies completely ruined the music business, a third album that went off in a different direction was a bit of a tradition, and acts that were serious did it regularly. But in 2009, any change of direction, any demonstration of talent above the previously approved demonstrations of talent didn’t wash.

Perhaps, of course, the Winehouse reggae album was lousy. Perhaps, possibly even, it was drug induced ramblings to some up-strummed syncopated guitars, and the record company was spot on to refuse to release it. But what if it’s not? What if, it is another great album, in a style completely different than the previous one? What then do we make of her talents?

Here’s a bold prediction: in the wake of her death, we are going to find out. The record company, so previously uninterested in Winehouse’s change of style, will release the reggae album posthumously. Further expect the DVD, and accompanying CD/iTunes release of her 2007 South by Southwest performances.

The 2007 South by Southwest performances are somewhat legendary. On the back of Back to Black, she did two sets, one with full band and one acoustic. Those who were there, including jaded music critics, where blown away by both. Releasing the two performances would put Winehouse out there as a significant live performer, overwriting the story of her last live performance a few weeks ago, which was nothing short of disaster.

But the reggae album will tell the tale. If it is a good album, or better than good, then likely Winehouse will forevermore be seen as a great talent, sadly cut down before she could build a significant repertoire. If it is a lousy album, then she will be rightly noted as a one time lucky performer, who couldn’t duplicate her early achievements.

There may be more, and if so, it will surely see the light of day. Perhaps some outtakes, perhaps that Bond theme she apparently wrote, but never got a chance to do because the Bond producer’s were more worried about her drug habit than her talent. It will all see the light of day, it will all sell extraordinarily well, making her poor sad parents rich beyond their imagination. And it will all go a long way to answering the question: just how big a talent was Amy Winehouse?

The Freedom of Music

Saturday Fluffernutter: The Back to Black Edition

July 30th, 2011
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All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorA large part of the tragedy of the Amy Winehouse story comes via her father, Mitch Winehouse. When Rehab, Winehouse’s ode to denial was a hit he begged fans not to buy the song and album. Your just encouraging her, he said at the time, and it’s going to kill her.

fluff2At a private funeral this week, he offered a 40 minute eulogy, telling hundreds of her friends and family while she may have been a troubled star, or a talented singer to millions, to them she was their “angel.”

The poor man humanizes this sad story and makes you wish for a different outcome.

Meanwhile, Amy’s ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil did not attend the funeral. Fielder, who divorced Winehouse in 2009 after a 2-year marriage, is serving a 32-month sentence for burglary and possession of a firearm. While he is reported in “inconsolable,” over the news of her death, he did not ask for compassionate leave to attend the funeral. He apparently didn’t want to attend in handcuffs out of respect for Winehouse and her family. If true, it may be the first decent thing he’s done since he and Winehouse came to public notice.

fluffincolorAshton Kutcher is a moron. I know, I know, “news flash.” But seriously, here’s what he tweeted after Amy Winehouse died:

I nevr know wht 2 post after paying respect 2 sum1 who died. Just seems lk anything funny is inappropriate. mayB I’ll just go C HarryPotter

Besides making my spell check cry, there is so much wrong with this. Yes, anything funny is inappropriate, but so is dismissively adding you’ll go “C HarryPotter.” Of course perhaps that was a little joke- the very sentence after saying jokes are inappropriate. Sigh.

Here’s the thing, you stupid, stupid man. If you can’t even take the time to spell correctly for a small tribute to someone who has just died, then don’t bother! Better nothing be said than an illiterate rambling that comes across as disrespectful for the deceased, and makes you look dumb as a bag of hammers – very dumb hammers.

fluffincolorMeanwhile U2 does it right, dedicating Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, to Winehouse.

“We wrote this next song for Michael Hutchence,” Bono told the audience, “but you will understand if tonight we play it for Amy Winehouse.”

Hutchence was the former singer for the band INXS, who committed suicide in 1997.

See Ashton Kutcher, that’s how it’s done, a nice sentiment simply stated. It doesn’t have to be about you.

fluffincolorSandra Bullok’s ex- moron husband Jesse James has split from the woman he left Bullock for. Tattoo model Kat Von D and James announced this week they have broken up.

Lets see, can’t stick with the wholesome, pretty all American girl, can’t stick with the filthy tattooed skank. Maybe James just doesn’t do this whole relating with other humans very well.

fluffincolorWill they, or won’t they?

Gene Simmons got down on bended knee this week on his reality show, Gene Simmons Family Jewels. Simmons proposed to his long time lover and mother of his 2 adult children, during the finale of the reality show.

After a spat on the Joy Behar show a few weeks ago, it looked like splitsville for the pair. Wether the proposal was filmed before or since the Behar show, I can’t seem to find out.I Guess we have to tune in next season to see what she says.

It’s all so romantic.

fluffincolorNot everybody split up this week, some people were reconciling. Case in point: Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.

The two had fallen out previously, but this week Lohan turned up at a Hilton party. While the two did not hug, kiss and/or announce an upcoming night on the town sans underwear, the appearance marks the first time the two have been seen in the same space in some time.

You know what Paris and Lindsay together means, don’t you. Means we here at Fluffernutter World Headquarters are going to have a banner season.

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Saturday Fluffernutter: The I Wasn’t Planning on Doing One This Week Edition

July 23rd, 2011

All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorAmy Winehouse (1983-2011)

Amy Winehouse has been found dead in her North London apartment. The singer joins the 27 club, after a  short career known more for her offstage problems than on stage successes. None the less, Winehouse had a beautiful, soulful voice reminiscent of 60’s jazz, soul singers.

A true waste of talent is the only words that come to mind to describe Winehouse today.

Rest in Peace, Amy Jade Winehouse.


Mark Steyn Friday

July 22nd, 2011
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Canadian pundit Mark Steyn has filled in for Rush Limbaugh for three days this week. On Tuesday he used Rupert Murdoch as a springboard for an hour on government responsibility. It was a brilliant hour of radio, where Steyn made the point that citizens and journalists are not supposed to be answerable to government, but government should be answering to citizens and journalists:

When you’re looking at government hauling up citizens and pointing the finger at them it’s the wrong way around. Citizens should be holding government to account, and what’s happening with Rupert Murdoch and the pie throwing guy and the rest of the circus in London is exactly the opposite of what a healthy society of genuine citizen legislatures and accountable government would really be doing.

If you can find Tuesday’s Rush Limbaugh Show somewhere, have a listen to the first hour. It was Mark Steyn at his best.

Meanwhile, Steyn has a new book coming out in a few weeks. After America: Get Ready for Armageddon will be released on August 8th in America and here in Canada:

From budgets to the border, diversity to disease, manufacturing to manhood, Steyn looks at the American undreaming, and provides a glimpse of the post-American world. There’s laughs along the way, and a few suggestions as to how total civilizational collapse might be avoided.

Rumour is it will be available on paper, as well as in e-book format.

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The Freedom of Music: My Name is Brian, and I am a Music Fan

July 17th, 2011


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

My name is Brian, and I am a music fan.

sidebar-2I was sitting in the back of Dad’s Grand Torino, my turn on the bump. It was family vacation time and we travelled three days to Myrtle Beach or Virginia Beach or Florida – I don’t recall which it was this given time. Dad ran out of lousy radio stations to listen to, and elected a top 40 one. BTO’s Takin’ Care of Business came on, and I was transfixed. I had two immediate responses to that first hit: Where do I get more of this and I how do I do that. For the next few years I bought BTO albums and singles with abandon, saw them in concert and read about them, including doing something unheard of in my young life, I read books about them. Once I had the albums and singles I moved backward to The Guess Who and Brave Belt, the band that history forgets gate-wayed into BTO.

By the time I learnt Takin’ Care of Business on guitar a few years later, I had progressed, The Beatles, Elton John, Kiss. There was always something else to try, always something harder. One time at a party someone put on Pink Floyd. It was otherworldly. Listen to it on the headphones, he said. What was this? How was this possible?

Then came the Zep. Heavier than anyone else dared to be on the Immigrant Song. But they had a light touch, and That’s the Way was both beautiful and sad. It spoke to me, yet I had no clue what it was saying (still don’t actually). The sublime blues of Since I’ve Been Loving You, a master guitar player at work; the careless fun of Rock and Roll and Robert Plant at full throttle on Black Dog; Battle of Evermore was middle earth meets middle 70’s (well, 1971); Kashmir, majestic and proud.

Once the studio material had been ingested, the live material, the hard stuff, came. Celebration Day, The Song Remains the Same, Whole Lotta Love complete with theramin and the tribute to 50’s rock and roll . A BBC Radio Broadcast gave Page playing a supple slide solo on What is and What Should Never Be. Led Zeppelin was a wonderful, dark mistress.

Soon I would be wearing the dress of a Led Zeppelin fan, Blue Jeans, Blue Jean Jacket, Blue or Black t-shirt, white running shoes with blue stripes. Then I would cut my hair in the approved fashion, which is to say, not at all. Being a music fan, a Led Zeppelin fan first, but any rock music would do in a pinch, that became my raison d’être.

My name is Brian, and I am a music fan.

So when I heard this week about Roger Tullgren, the Swedish Heavy Metal fan who is on income supplement benefits and listed as disabled because of his music addiction, I understood. Roger’s vice is heavy metal, starting in 1971 when his brother brought home a Black Sabbath album.

Roger, it seems, is stuck in his formitive years. He keeps his hair heavy metal long, has heavy metal appropriate tattoo’s and misses work for concerts. So the Swedish authorities granted him disabled status, meaning he now gets income supplement from the state – No word as yet on the disabled parking permit.

While music has remained a vital part of my life, Roger seems much farther gone than I. Roger keeps his hair heavy metal, I never managed to keep any hair. I try not to dress the same way, although I default to jeans and dark t-shirt far too often. But still, I listen to music in the car, at home and at work. I play in a band, which means I have a guitar or mandolin or some other in my hand some part of pretty much every day. When I surf the internet, I am often looking at some music website or another, and a good portion of my reading list is music books or books on music.

My name is Brian, and I am a music fan.

“Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” Rob Gordon asks in High Fidelity. High Fidelity is a movie/book in which the central question is, are you what you like? As Rob ridiculously says at one point, “Liking both Marvin Gaye and Art Garfunkel is like supporting both the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

Perhaps music is too important to the Rob Gordon’s of the world. But one of the lessons Rob learns is it is possible to like someone who has Phil Collins CDs in their collection – a message that surprised me, I must say. It seems obvious, however. You may be defined by what you like, but are not what you like. That’s what Roger Tullgren missed. He is not a screw up who can’t commit to being an adult because he’s a heavy metal fan, that’s just who he is. It could be ballet, or modern dance or cricket, but Roger was always going to be a screw up. Heavy metal is the excuse, not the reason.

Lot’s of 42 year olds still have long hair and some skull and crossbones tattoo. Lots of them go to concerts regularly, make the devil sign when they like something, wear leather jackets and play in a band. Lots of people do all that and have good jobs, wives and kids hockey games which they go to. You can be both guys.

My name is Brian, and I am a music fan… among other things.

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Leaving Afghanistan

July 7th, 2011
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Lets not kid the troops. There’s lots of reasons for the Canadian military to be in Afghanistan: Women, buried in burkas and hidden behind dark drapes indoors, were losing their teeth due to lack of vitamin D when Canadian troops first arrived. Girls were not allowed to go to school. Human rights were non-existant.

troopsAnd none of that counts.

Canada went to Afghanistan because it was a breeding ground for terrorists. The 9/11 hijackers, mostly Saudi’s, got their training in Afghanistan. The Taliban were suddenly a threat to our national security. The decision was made that we were going to have to fight those terrorists, either here or there. Canada, and the government of Jean Chrétien, chose there.

It was a controversial decision for Chrétien. The left didn’t want us to fight anybody, anywhere. The right felt Chrétien was throwing all we had at Afghanistan so he could take a miss on Iraq. But Afghanistan was the right fight.

Paul Martin later committed the Canadian Forces to Kandahar after Chrétien had moved them to the safer ground of Kabul. In his memoirs, Chrétien blamed Martin with dithering causing the Canadian’s to be moved to the more dangerous area:

Later, unfortunately, when my successor took too long to make up his mind about whether Canada should extend our term with the International Security Assistance Force, our soldiers were moved out of Kabul and sent south again to battle the Taliban in the killing fields around Kandahar.

Whatever the reason, Canada’s casualty count rose, and reports of battlefield death became far too common.

Canada lost 157 soldiers in  the Afghanistan battle, including Pte. William J. Cushley, whom this blog has honoured since 2006.  Cushley, just 21, was killed in operation Medusa on Sept 3, 2006.

Today, the Canadian combat troops begin leaving Afghanistan, winding up Canada’s operation in this ten year war.  They have done a very difficult job, they have paid a startling price to do that job, and they have done the job well and honourably.

God Bless the troops as they return to their families and lives.

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Journalism, Toronto Star Style

July 5th, 2011

What’s that line about moral and intellectual superiors?

Ford said he had to miss the parade because of a family gathering at his cottage. A Star reporter did not spot

him there over three hours Sunday afternoon; when she approached as the family packed up their cars around 5:45 p.m., his niece Krista, daughter of Councillor Doug Ford, said he had gone to Huntsville. She guessed that he was shopping for groceries.

The Toronto Star sent a reporter to spy on Rob Ford.  Charming.

And what did Mayor Ford miss? Fellows in cowboy boots with leather wanker rings and pink rape whistles.

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Saturday Fluffernutter: The Yes, it’s Spelled Téa Edition.

July 2nd, 2011

All the fluffy news about those nutty celebrities

fluffincolorJames Bond and the Tied Knot:

fluffernutterDaniel Craig and his gal pal Rachel Weisz got married last weekend in New York. The quiet ceremony was attended by one attendant each, and the couples two children from previous relationships.

No word on whether the least likeable Bond rolled the wedding car on route to the honeymoon.

fluffincolorBig winner of 2011, Charlie Sheen will start the fall TV season… dead.

His character on the hit “sitcom” Two and a Half Men, Charlie Harper, will be killed off in the season opener. According to, the show will begin with dark screen for “just a minute or two,” as characters Alan and Jake find out he is dead.


fluffincolorMr. Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon said this week that he and the boss are done having kids.

I (Cannon) do (want more children), Mariah doesn’t. She was like, “That’s it, I’m done! Two at once!

Translation, it turns out having kids was not all about Mariah, and it won’t happen again.

fluffincolorWhen Nasa sent a spacecraft into the far reaches of space full of artefacts from earth in order to communicate with any aliens who may intercept the craft, among the artefacts where Chuck Berry records. According to Father Guido Sarducci, the craft returned with a note inside: “Send more Chuck Berry.”

The city of St. Louis understands the sentiment, and this week voted to erect an 8-foot statue of the rock and roll legend. The statue will be built on a new public bikeway near Blueberry Hill, the club where Berry has played a regular gig over the past 15 years.

The statue has it’s detractors, notably 86-year old Elsie Glickbert, who notes that 84-year old Berry is a convicted felon. Berry was convicted in 1962 of “transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes.”

Hard to understand why, 15 years after Bill Clinton, people aren’t more concerned about those 60’s era “immoral purposes” convictions.

fluffincolorTime to shave, trim the unwanted hairlettes and suck in the gut: Téa Leoni is back on the market. Leoni and her husband of 14 years, Californication’s David Duchovny, have separated for the second time in three years.

The couple separated for a year in 2008 after Duchovny “underwent treatment for sex issues,” i.e. was found to be a serial philanderer. They reunited a year later

No word on what caused this years split, but one can’t help but wildly speculate that the words “pecker,” and “pants” where used during the decisive argument.

fluffincolor Free at last, free at last… Lindsay Lohan is free at last.

Lindsay Lohan, felonious actress, was released from home detention after serving 35 days in house arrest for stealing a $2,500 necklace.

Her monitoring equipment was removed Wednesday morning, freeing Lohan from her days spent painting. No word on what she did after being released, we just hope it had nothing to do with either her probationary restriction against drugs and alcohol or David Duchovny.

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Cool for Cats Friday

July 1st, 2011
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For the 144th celebration of Dominion Day, on offer is a couple of my favourite Canadian songs:

It’s possible Mama Let Him Play was too easy, so here’s another great song from Doucette’s seminal album, Back Off

Something of a more recent vintage, Montreal’s The Respectables, Sweet Mama:

Speaking of sweet mama’s, sorry to hear of the death of Elaine Stewart this week, who died age 81. One of Hollywood’s the true beauties.


One more:

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