Category Archives: music

How I Miss Music Video Programs

Ever since music video programs took to the airwaves in the 1980s, I have always been a huge fan of the art form. Whether it was “Friday Night Videos”, “Video Hits”, “Good Rockin’ Tonite”, “MuchMusic” or “MusiquePlus”, I was glued to the set. Hour after hour I would watch, mesmerized by this cool art form combining music, film and storytelling in a tight package with a run time of about four minutes.

Through my late high school years and university years, music videos formed the soundtrack of my life, featuring artists like Duran Duran, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Bananarama, Depeche Mode, the Pet Shop Boys and the Jackson family. Music videos welcomed me home from school, were the focal point of some parties, helped keep me awake through late-night essays and helped me pace myself in studying for final exams.

When I got into the career years, priorities changed a little as did my ability to watch 12 consecutive hours of music videos. But I remained a fan nonetheless, often keeping the music channels on for background music while I cleaned my apartment or worked in the kitchen.

A few nights ago, I realized how much I missed music videos as a source of background music. I decided to try to recreate that feeling.

Since I got the iTunes app almost a decade ago, I have purchased a few music videos that were particularly special to me, but not enough to make a playlist as diverse as what a music video channel offered back in the day. Plus, iTunes doesn’t carry all of my old favourites.

YouTube on the other hand, carries almost everything I could possibly want, with only a few exceptions. Sadly, some treasured videos are hanging by a thread in cyberspace with only a couple of grainy versions to be found. Continue reading

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50 Reasons to Love Music

1- Music can pick up a listener’s mood when they’re feeling down.
2- Music can help a listener to relax when they’re feeling wound up.
3- Music can help set the mood for any activity.
4- In the morning, the right song can help set the pace for the whole day.
5- The right music can make traffic jams more bearable.
6- The right background music can make a movie a masterpiece.
7- A game show would not be as much fun if it didn’t have the right background music.
8- A horror movie would not be as enjoyable without the appropriate background music.
9- Music is a great conversation starter.
10- Music makes people want to move.
11- Music makes exercise more fun. Continue reading

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Where Have All the TV Theme Songs Gone?

This season, the American television network “The CW” launched a reboot of the favourite 1980’s prime time soap “Dynasty”. In watching the very first episode, I was delighted to see several nods to its original series, including having kept its great orchestral theme song. The only thing was that it was a much shorter version of it.

Similarly, Netflix has recently rebooted “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” Again, a really unique theme song, but chopped down to just a few bars of its original.

Have you noticed how the opening themes for many American TV shows have gotten shorter and shorter over the years? Now, some shows don’t even have them at all.

If I mentioned the names of program like “All in the Family“, “Golden Girls”, “Three’s Company”, “The Brady Bunch” or “Gilligan’s Island”, even if you weren’t a huge fan, I’m sure many of you would be able to recite a few words if not the whole theme song.

These theme songs became deeply entrenched in our pop culture, and some have become synonymous with the decades when the shows originally aired. In doing so, they also became entrenched in our hearts and minds.

As young kids, we couldn’t play “Batman” without singing few rounds of the famous “Na na na na na na na…” theme.

What would have become of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” with a theme song about a messy breakup instead of the inspiring words about making it after all? Continue reading

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Boxing Day Memories: Sam the Record Man

When I think back to my Christmas wish lists over the years, music has been a constant. As a long time music lover, my voracious appetite for music goes as far back as age 10.

Through my early teens, I had an allowance from my parents, and in my later teen years, I had pocket money from a part-time job. A lot of that money was spent on records.

At that time, vinyl record albums were relatively pricey for someone earning $2.35 per hour. Christmas became that opportunity to ask Santa for the albums I did not get a chance to pick up myself through the year.

In preparing that wish list, there was some careful consideration and a few (if not several) trips to the record store(s) to ensure that the albums I chose would bring maximum enjoyment. I would meticulously review the song lists and count the number of songs I knew versus the ones I didn’t, and then compared from one album to the next.

We didn’t have listening stations, YouTube, iTunes or Spotify to check out those other unknown songs. Sometimes I might have been able to borrow a certain album from a friend or from the library, but for the most part, those other songs were often a mystery until the record was home and on the turntable.

When I think back, I am surprised at how methodical I was for such a young age, but value for money was pretty important given my limited means and my appetite for music. Continue reading

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How I Became a Fan of the Eurovision Song Contest

The first time I heard about the Eurovision Song Contest was in the late 1970’s when I read an article about my favourite musical group, ABBA. The article credited ABBA’s meteoric rise to international stardom to the Eurovision Song Contest and their 1974 win with the song “Waterloo”.

For this young Canadian, even though I had no idea what Eurovision was, it sounded like a big event! I knew just enough about world geography to know that if a music competition involved a whole continent, it must have been something special.

In the years that followed, and the many hours spent listening to MuchMusic, Eurovision came up a few times, whether in the “Rock News” reports or when the VJ’s (“Video Jockeys”) were presenting a video and providing some background into the song and the artist. I remained intrigued.

In 2002, I was finding myself a little bored with mainstream radio here in North America and found myself searching for other musical options. At the same time, I had changed cable packages and was introduced to “BPM TV”, a new music video channel focused on dance tunes from around the globe.

Over the course of BPM’s programming, I was introduced to the Swedish pop band Alcazar. With their very catchy pop-dance tunes, bright upbeat tempo, and amazing sense of style, glamour and showmanship, they quickly became my favourite band! They still are today!

In the process of getting to know Alcazar better through online research, the theme of Eurovision popped up again. Alcazar competed in 2003 with a song called “Not a Sinner nor a Saint”, in a competition called Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s national competition to pick a song to represent the country at Eurovision. This was where the journey began! Continue reading

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A Tribute to Mamma Mia!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe hit Broadway show Mamma Mia! will be playing to its final audience on September 12, 2015. Even though I assume that touring companies will probably continue to play to audiences around the world for some time to come, to me, it is the end of an era.

According to my Playbill collection, it appears that I have seen Mamma Mia! 8 times: 3 times in Toronto, 3 in Ottawa, 1 in Las Vegas, and 1 in New York City. I even came close to seeing it once in Stockholm in Swedish which would have been a great time for a student of all things Swedish like myself, but alas, it was not playing the week I was there.

My first time was a rather unique situation in the sense that it was about month after my dad had passed away. This was the first time I had lost a relative who was that close to me. I had a hard time articulating, feeling, validating and working through the range of emotions I was experiencing, and felt up and down like a roller coaster over that time. I was in a very sad place.
My uncle was so kind in that he knew I was going to Toronto for a bit of a getaway, and he so generously offered me a ticket to see Mamma Mia!

He knew I had been a fan of ABBA since I was very young, and he knew how much I enjoyed theatre. It was a pretty safe bet that I would enjoy it. If only he knew what it would mean to me in that moment and for years to come.

Our balcony seat offered us a bird’s eye view of the show and we did not miss a single moment. From the opening scene and the first notes of “I Have a Dream”, I recall goosebumps and chills down my spine with the recognition that this was the closest I would get to ever seeing ABBA music performed live in this lifetime. This was already a dream come true… and the first song just started!

I had never experienced a musical like this before, with Continue reading

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My Muse, “So Red the Rose” by Arcadia

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES I think it would be fair to say that everyone has that one masterpiece that they hold near and dear as a constant source of inspiration. It does not matter the medium, whether painting, sculpture, music, theatre, opera, dance or literary works, but we all have that one masterpiece that at some point was a game changer. It is that one piece of art that reaches out, grabs you, won’t let go and resonates on a level that defies words. Yet, my challenge today is to try to find those words anyway!

To me, that unique piece is the 1985 album, “So Red the Rose” by Arcadia, a project by Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor, better known as three fifths of the musical group Duran Duran.

Also contributing to “So Red the Rose”, were Sting, Herbie Hancock, Grace Jones, David Gilmour, Carlos Alomar, Mark Egan, Rafael De Jesus, David Van Tiegham and Masami Tsuchiya, all gifted artists spanning the music spectrum. Then with Alex Sadkin’s masterful hand as producer, this brilliant cornucopia of talent converges into a truly remarkable work of art.

For pop music at that time, it was experimental, it was pioneering and it extended beyond traditional pop boundaries. As a devoted Duran Duran fan, this project was a huge gift. From a creative perspective, it was like a good friend taking me somewhere I had never been before, and I savoured every moment of the journey down that very different road.

While each song is a very unique creation, vastly different from the others, there still seems to be a cohesiveness to the album overall, a puzzle I am still trying to figure out 30 years later.

Starved for that creative spark as I was just starting to find my own voice as an artist, the first few times I listened to the album, it blew my mind. It was an awakening!

I remember from the years that followed, a regular ritual of lighting candles, putting “So Red the Rose” on the record player and letting the music waft over me like a gentle breeze. It was a meditation that awoke me spiritually and creatively, Continue reading

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