When I started this blog I swore to myself it was going to be about looking forward – new concepts and trends in music, new technologies, etc. And definitely NO nostalgic nattering, droning on about how much better vinyl records are (though they ARE) or the “golden ages” of various styles of music. But we seem to be at a crossroads in today’s pop culture; I see many young up-and-coming bands taking a back-to-basics approach to production values and songcrafting, and the popularity of musical competitions on TV igniting a new interest in forgotten pop classics. New musical technologies are about making things simpler, to not impede the creative process. I remember this arc of the music cycle very well, because at the dawn of NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, I had just moved to Toronto, seeking a new start. Freshly fired from a BostonKansasStyxSupertramp cover band, I wanted to shed that glossy pop and re-invent myself.
So this post is going to be about how sometimes leaping ahead takes you to a place further back than you started from…
I got a job at Roblan’s Warehouse, the main distributor for Sam The Record Man, thinking about the networking possibilities, as well as how great the fit for my skillset. That didn’t matter- Sam wanted cheap, didn’t even care if you spoke english, most of my fellow bottom rung-ers were Chinese (If you ever wondered why your special order from Sam’s was wrong….) My only stroke of luck was that I was hired just prior to summer holidays, and demonstrating a knowledge of records got me rotated through the various departments as a temp replacement. The first adventure was “the Returns Basement”…. (spoken in a contemptuous voice, implying a Stygian crypt of uncleanliness)
Surprise! Matt & Dave were very friendly, funny cats who had converted a dank cement basement into a colorful tribute to the history of vinyl. The walls were covered everywhere with all the records that featured the female form. Herb Alpert, Ray Conniff, Boots Randolph, Roxy Music, and hundreds of unknown lounge lizards who had discovered marketing rule number one;
(drum roll) SEX SELLS
But it wasn’t just the girls, these guys could discuss the relative merits of Acker Bilk and Ace Cannon, in the same breath as Killing Joke or Joy Division. I had never met such musical non-partisans before- they had a deep appreciation for ALL music, and could intelligently discuss the commonalities that linked Engelbert Humperdinck and Adam Ant, or the classical themes that appeared in both Beatles and Black Sabbath. They showed me that everything old is new again – one night we got invites to a record release party for Jack De Kyzer’s Rockabilly band “The Bop Cats” (The Stray Cats were currently no 1) and we wound up in the A&R guy’s office listening to the REAL stuff; Sonny Burgess, Vernon Taylor,et al.
(much, much later that night, after a few ‘shish bowls-full, he started pulling out all his ‘slush pile’ demo tapes. All the wanna-bes and earnest hopefuls that should have considered a career in comedy instead. Laughed until it hurt…)
That same week, Wayne Kramer’s Air Raid played at Larry’s Hideaway and blew the doors off with a heavy rock version of the Supreme’s “Stop, In The Name Of Love”. Saw tons of new/ modern bands too (Kinetic Ideals, Breeding Ground, L’Etranger, etc.), went to auditions seeking that SOUND no-one else was doing (paging Lorenzo St Dubois !), but the mirror had been shattered. In every Talking Heads song I heard Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66, in every Bauhaus lurked Ziggy Stardust. And when The B52’s “Rock Lobster” infected all of Toronto later that summer, all I could think was:
WHAT KIND OF A MAN READS PLAYBOY?