I’ve always been a sucker for a pop song. I think it’s because I found solace in my early years in AM Top 40 radio (see last week’s post). I’m not ashamed to admit that when ‘Uptown Girl’ comes on in the Safeway, I’m singing along in the produce section. Now, my head says it’s garbage, and my heart and gut, too, but somewhere there’s a piece of me that loves that stuff. Ask my thoughts on Billy Joel, and depending on my mood, you will get “He sucks” or “I hate that crap”, or, if I’m in a particularly foul mood, a rant that will seem endless and will only end when you look at your watch and say, “Jeez, Lorrie – been good chatting, but I gotta go… ummm… clean my hamster cage… right now…”
Hypocritical? Yup. A contradiction? Absolutely.
What can I say? You cannot define how or why a song will affect you, or what that means. Sometimes a sunny melody and a great hook are all I need. A great song does not need a deep, intellectual lyric that explores the depths of the human condition and/or a million chord changes you’d need a Master’s degree to figure out how to play in order to move me. We’re not talking desert island stuff here, but really – who among us is gonna wind up on a desert island (is there even any desert islands left?), and if we do, will we remember to pack a solar-powered stereo and our 10 favorite records? Besides, who could possibly have only 10 favorite records?
(An aside – years ago, when Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity came out, I was all about that book. Couldn’t stop talking about it. After a stellar Westerberg show in Vancouver, a bunch of us went to a pub down the street from the Commodore Ballroom to hang out and recap the show. Of course, Hornby’s book came to mind, and I asked my friend Andrew – biggest Springsteen fan in the world, I think – if he’d read High Fidelity. He response was that he’d started it, but only got a few chapters in before putting it away. “WHAAAAT?!?! You didn’t like it?” I was stunned. He stared back at me over his pint with a look of grim determination – “Look…” Deep breath. ” I like my fiction… to be FICTION! I don’t need some smartass telling me my own life story!”)
And it works the other way, too. I am (to some of you, anyway) about to commit heresy here. Often, when getting into a real good knock-em-down-drag-it-out music discussion, people (regardless of how well they know me personally) will bring up Townes van Zandt in reverential tones, expecting that he is someone we can all agree on the genius of. Not me. I don’t get it. I’ve tried, a thousand times. His music does nothing for me. One of those guys songwriters “have” to like, and I don’t care one whit. If (to paraphrase my pal, the inimitable Joel Stewart) TvZ were playing in my backyard, I’d close the drapes.
I remember buying Teenage Fanclub’s “Bandwagonesque” at Sam’s Chinook in the winter of 1991. I had never heard the record and only had a vague recollection of hearing about the record. The cover was (still is) atrocious, so that can’t be why I bought it. I was, however, trembling with anticipation in the store, looking at the CD in my hands, and I have no idea why. Once I got it home, though, it didn’t leave the stereo for a good long time, and, once I read up on them a bit, it led me back to the Big Star records I got on account of that Replacements song – records I never really bothered listening to.
I was a fan. At least I thought I was, but when the Fanclub’s next record, “13” came out, all it did was make me wanna put “Bandwagonesque” on again (I have since realized the error of my ways), and so, when “Grand Prix” came out in ’95, I did not jump at the chance to acquire it. Eventually, I got around to getting it, and the instant ‘About You’ came on with those ringing, chiming guitars… well, it was all over. Teenage Fanclub had won me back. One of my favorite memories from 1995 was when Fire Engine Red was out at the Halifax Pop Explosion in October of that year, and we went to see The Posies. Jon Auer (Posies’ guitar player/singer/pop genius) was onstage, setting up his gear when ‘Neil Jung’ from Grand Prix came over the P.A. Without missing a beat, he played along, note for note, the whole tune. I loved Jon Auer (and his band) before that, but after? I woulda walked across hot coals for him.
I can safely say that Grand Prix is one of my favorite records of all time. Top 10? This week, it is. Next week, maybe Top 100, who knows? Does the ranking really matter? Not to me…
This last week was a crazy week for me. I did a project for a band in my studio, and was hard up on a recording grant deadline for myself and a bunch of potential clients in my studio (writing grant proposals and doing recording budgets is most definitely not my forte). Add four shows in 5 nights at the Marquee Room, and I was a bit of a basket case all week.
On Wednesday, I got a call from the Calgary Herald, wanting my reaction to a recently released survey that states that most artists live close to the downtown core. I’m an artist, and I live close to downtown – what do I think of said survey? I answered a few questions patiently, thinking the whole time about all the work I had to get done, figuring it was a fluff piece to be buried in the back of the City section. Needless to say, I was taken aback when the reporter told me the paper was sending over a photographer. “Huh? Ummm… OK… I guess.”
Next day, I woke up groggy to a mess of email/text/phone messages. My photo was on the front cover. Man. Had I known that was gonna happen, I would have showered and put on a clean shirt. The lady at the 7-11 freaked out when I went in to grab a coffee, and I had to stop answering the phone in order to get some work done. Pretty surreal, I have to say.
One of the many ignored messages I listened to later that night was from a dear friend I don’t see nearly enough of, mostly because life and love and work and all that get in the way. He’s the kind of guy you could call at 3 AM and say, “I need 500 bucks and a ride to the border” and he’d be there, no questions asked, in a heartbeat – the kind of friend you never think you’re ever gonna have. Expecting it to be another good-natured poke from a buddy about my (supposed) newsworthiness, the message stopped me in my tracks and wiped out the stress and strain of the week:
“Hey pal. I’m just driving around, listening to Teenage Fanclub. Made me think of you. I miss you.”
Like I said – you cannot define how or why a song (or artist) will move you, or what that means, but it means a lot. Hey, Issa?
Teenage Fanclub’s “About You”
(Click on the Play button beside the song title to launch the music player
or right-click on the link to download it to your computer.)