Peter Hook & The Light Live in Toronto

Peter Hook & The Light at the Danforth Music Hall, Tuesday November 29, Toronto

Peter Hook and the Light take the stage at Toronto’s best, most special and most fun venue, early, at 8:20, and with no opener. They’ve made a good number of Toronto stops in their just four years touring Hooky’s Joy Division and New Order music, with increasing buzz each time. In a tremendous reversal of what a lot of new music today does, or gets to do, Hook’s new work grows all by itself through authenticity and real, old fashioned, word-of-mouth. It doesn’t hurt that the music was developed over the last great musical era, in the most fertile place in all of Europe, by the most innovative band who was unafraid to experiment and take risks, even after early success and terrible loss under another name.

But it’s not name recognition or love of this iconic music that’s made this tour a sellout, conquering US city after US city like a modern day Viking before a lovely finish in Montreal and then, here, the dessert: Toronto, where someone deserving is welcomed like a god for bloody once.  Hook’s performance honed over more than 30 dates in two months is utter musical reinvention and reclamation, the purity and clarity of stripping down something monstrous- a worldwide famous household name brand- to its essence by a genius with an ear unlike any other, different than the other geniuses out there wielding an ax, but no less a guitar god than whoever in Metal is so often named. It’s now Peter Hook’s reading of New Order and Joy Division that matters. Like Johnny Marr’s recent solo efforts, it is much more these days than the sum of its parts was, and better by miles than the competition. It’s streamlined, a killer beast, majestic, lithe, the top of the food chain, rogue, punk. It’s punk again. It’s anti-establishment. And it sings.

We are told that Peter Hook and the Light, made up of members of one-time side-project Monaco with the addition of Hook’s son Jack Bates, have done 400 gigs as of tonight. More than New Order did in 40 years. Not just shade, this fact is deeply significant. It illustrates the point about stripping down, packing light, and taking only what you can carry. Like Renton escaping his groundhog day life at the end of Trainspotting. The stage is spare, no banner or flag, everything heaped in the center, musicians around it, nothing frivolous or decorative. (How often does a venue staffer say that it was an easy set up, when a legend is in town?) It looks like a jam in someone’s house. Hooky’s house.

Trust me when I tell you, Toronto doesn’t let loose unless they mean it. Tonight was the wildest, most open -hearted night of strangers we’ve ever seen, and been part of, in all these years. That I can ever remember. It was, in fact, the closest three hours to Shiiine we’ll ever find here. And all of us there helped make it so, led by the visionary co-creator and bassist of the best album of singles of the last 40 years, played live, cut for cut. After just a few minutes break, a tour of Joy Division’s works, music that demands to be played and heard, is played for another full hour. No one dares to budge. No one will succeed in pushing to the front now. Tonight, those at the front have earned it.

New Order live was never like this; beholden to machines, maybe, on big, cold, faraway stages, in the crummy sports arenas of our lo-fi youth, something sterile in the mix got in the way of the beauty of their creations, there were too many cooks. But this is raw, alive, sweaty, loud, uncut rock and roll, unashamed love and life itself. And even on the bigger stages will remain so, now-we can attest. We know every note, every beat, and yet it’s better than the records, it jumps off the records, and it simply shorts out whatever circuitry is left in the mockery of music in this era of the digital file, in the homes and heads of people who have no stereos anymore. We betrayed ourselves for pocket convenience. We’ve been conned. We betrayed our art, our own gods, this. Guys, we have to go back.

Our fandom, here in Toronto, of New Order, was strong, but very remote indeed. Toronto in the eighties felt to us like (and was) an island far away from the world we loved, Britain, where we sometimes got music a few years too late. But we’d caught up by 1987, and you see, when we got it, it stayed with us forever and forever and forever.

It is 25 years later.

We are telling people we are newly acquainted with, good, fun, interesting people, who’ve been at the gig in different places around the happiest room we can ever remember, alone, together, about our trip down to Shiiine On Weekender in the UK to see Peter Hook last year. The Kaleidoscope is flipped. For this night alone, Toronto is the center of the world. And a corner of England and a festival that, in this group, only we know about is a faraway, unknown thing. 

Peter Hook and the Light know about Shiiine,  though, they (very much) helped make it historic, and it was. He’s headlining a two night mini-cruise that’s the next Shiiine project, with two different set lists for the most devoted, in March. We know our place, but feel part of a larger Shiiine Family that extends all the way to Hooky himself, something unbreakable and special. Something new, tailor made for this new era of iconic tunes. We can’t help but tell our friends, only late at night, about what we saw and felt, there, in the afterglow of what has happened here tonight.

But the truth, that I only dare whisper to my partner and my Shiiine friends in private messages is that tonight is even better. The rest is all agog stunned incoherence, like we felt when Marr came in 2014.

Once the gig ends about 11:00 we move the night to a nearby pub we frequent for vinyl night. This is among our patch of haunts now in a new life we’ve made, and we love it. We spin our own copy of Low-Life for ourselves and everyone else with us, or not with us who’ve come rushing in for late night drinks we don’t need but conversation and understanding that we all do, will bank for regular chilly Toronto days with our blank runway stares that we wear all the rest of the year. We run into the girl who caught Peter Hook’s T-shirt. She fought a few guys for it, she tells me. I love that. Later, when the socializing is over and the night goes silent, last up as usual, it will be teary stillness and late night secret messages to early risers across an ocean, who understand this. Even though this music has never left our lives, something ricochets back to age sixteen with Substance 1987 (/2016) tonight, to that mess of tangled, knotted Christmas lights inside me. To hit the ground at 4 am, full of operatic regret, and write to a faraway friend, just daring them to respond: “It’s the sound of a time that never happened. Like the world was our oyster. It wasn’t. It sounds like fuel enough to conquer the world. I didn’t.” He rises to this unreasonableness. So, never happy, I press on “this is decidedly anti-nostalgia. I am course-correcting that stupid girl-” Well, I’m sorry, but that’s the power of music like this. From this source. Across an ocean. Across 25 years. Across a lifetime. Across the human heart. Beautifully stubborn. Evergreen. Essential. Unstoppable.

Up, down, turn around, please don’t let me hit the ground. Tonight I think I’ll walk alone, I’ll find my soul as I go home.

But two hours earlier, just before we leave, still up, never down, the bartender/DJ stops us. Wait! Wait! Don’t go. He’s young, encouraging, he started this vinyl thing last summer and he is interested in history, in histories, in music, in liner notes,  gets the wonderful absurdity in Kenny Rogers’ trajectory and the deep, obscure religion that is Elvis, celebrates with us that early period Tom Petty is deeply unsung, and much more, in a hodge podge of a roommate’s vinyl, with newer, classy items handpicked just lately, welcoming all to join in, free of judgement, erasing the usual biases buried in music snobbery; in near-downtown bars. He takes us back to the happiness of discovery & sharing a listener experience that was so important once, and the funny little details that only happen in the artwork of vinyl records of certain ages and origins. In people. Even in us. He mans the whole bar, a kind and funny word for everyone, and runs to catch the skips that happen even on the overpriced “mint condition” vinyl we all buy nearby, that we can’t afford but need to save. That we have no way to play, except for here and now. I wonder if he knows about the Peter Saville pure works of art that the New Order sleeves are, probably, he does.

He gives us hope; he brings his record player across town every single week on public transit. He wanted to go to Hooky, he gets it, but he had to work, he is needed. He stops us. He forgot to play it before, he was saving it- just today he picked up a Joy Division single of Love Will Tear Us Apart. We’ve never even held this single in our hands or seen it, and it’s from our own youth, when records were shared and special, when we thought we’d always have the friends whose bedroom floors we lounged on like cats, whose houses stood close to our own, mirrors, we imagined were our own, that have been demolished now, most cruelly, like a beating heart. In a glowing, vivid night that can simply not get any better, he plays it very loud at 2:30 a.m. just for us. We rattle apart like cheap speakers, we fly to pieces like wooden picture frames hung on finishing nails in first apartments, we feel like we’ll never be able to speak or write another word.

Words by Jacqueline Howell, gentle prodding and photos by Dave MacIntyre

Peter Hook & the Light: Substance On Tour

The city we live in, and the wider world of music lovers who know and remember the 70s and 80s, has finally turned a corner.

Peter Hook & The Light at The Phoenix, 2011.

After a committed, years-long effort to widely tour first, his Joy Division masterpieces and then, the early works of New Order, Peter Hook, an undeniable bass god, innovator, musical (and Manchester) ambassador has achieved something brand new in the cities that need routine shaking up these days: He’s made us remember, in our bones, what it felt like, back then. He’s made a clamour, just like he and his band mates did all those years ago, he’s ripped apart the complacency and staleness that befalls even the biggest music cities in between very special visits from those very special living legends across all genres that matter, and he’s done this by doing the impossible: by reinvigorating and reinterpreting music so iconic and so deep it is tattooed upon two generations’ very marrow. Songs that feel as innate as a pulse, that beat the same way. Grooves that he alone invented, using an underappreciated instrument in all new ways, that took the masses from the Joy Division depths of the darkest places of the soul, to the transcendent crystalline New Order anthems that would define and dictate what it meant to dance in the 1980s. And not just in Manchester or England or Europe, but across the world.Peter Hook should not have to prove anything to any one of us. He’s changed the world a couple of times already. But the world of music needs him now. New Order tours in the 80s and 90s in North America were spotty, intermittent things, but well-remembered, and attendance at those in the big and lucky Canadian and American cities is one of those badges of honour still carrying currency when you feel out a new friend or business associate to this very day.  The importance of Joy Division, and of New Order, can simply not be overstated. No matter how many pints are attacked and left for dead in an evening of discussing one of our bands as deeply as our own family members, and with more invested sometimes.

With or without the cred or the opportunity to have seen New Order when New Order was intact (& included founding member Peter Hook) the music he worked to create in those formative years holds an uncommon place in millions of hearts that loves it still, like a first, best crush that never let you down. Like if Molly Ringwald’s Samantha of Sixteen Candles and her Porsche driving Adonis of substance, everyone’s boyfriend Jake Ryan, stayed young and in that first bloom-freeze frame forever, candles burning brightly, never got old or fat or yelled at one another, and definitely never ended in bitter divorce, the rusted Porsche now being bitterly fought over, their bratty and ungrateful kids never even knowing how beautiful their parents were, once, that impossible red hair now gone ashen.

New Order music still shimmers and raises the roof of any room the discs are spun in, and it always will. Joy Division still hits us in those sad places, comforting and empathetic when we are at a low. The specialness, the untouchableness of these records is well known. But what’s newer, and what really adds profound meaning to all this casual beauty of all of our younger days is that as the original players and fans all age, we are confronted with the truths of mortality everyday. In music, whether because we’re pining for that heroic singer we never got to see who will be forever mourned who died long ago, or the legends who died in 2016. Our 80s dance, post-punk, and new wave (aw, hell, the best of it has no genre at all, internet cataloging be damned) has a different lifeforce than the holier than though, mono, diner sountracked 60s. It came of age, we came of age, in the cold war. In various kinds of cold wars. The end of the century. Fear and loathing. Recessions and repressions and disconnectedness as normal. And music was then our only church, our only teacher, our only dad. This truth cuts across a bunch of genres but has a feeling. It was made by, and speaks to, creative people who aren’t about databases, lists and soundbites but know the plain truth that there is a genre called, only, Clash Music. There is a genre called, only, Joy Division Music. There is a genre called, only, Cure Music. And there is a genre called, only, New Order Music. And for many of us that last genre ended,  in its original form, in 2007.

Peter Hook & The Light in Minehead, 2015

What came out of New Order’s dissolution was there for anyone fit, willing and able, to pick up the pieces and move on. Never mind the books, the press banging out the same old note, loving a feud as they do, loving to see, to fan the flames of, and to feast over any bones they can get of any ugly public breakdown, as if this majesty could be reduced to a red top headline. You need only be in one of the rooms (or watercraft) when Peter Hook has been playing with his new outfit, ably accompanied now by his son, Jack Bates, trading off highs and lows, changing the narrative and evolving, unafraid, committed, the frontman he always really was, in tour after tour now developing into an appealing singer far closer to Ian Curtis than Sumner ever was, to forget all you knew or read or wondered or grieved or griped about that band or this band or the band before; to know that this is a rare artist whose heart is bigger than his talent even; underneath that utter cool, that he breathes and lives to this music as we do, more, you know, you must know, and that the claim upon all this art and these beats is asserted because it’s right and good and erasure of the past is sometimes all you can fucking do to live again. It’s the news of the day. It has happened without much fanfare at first, with the easy sneers the now irrelevant press taught us drowned out, and been built, again, from the ground up inside a room in Manchester, and brick by brick in a new foundation of sound and feeling. You’ll know if you were there, if you’ll be there. That is, if you can get a ticket.

Peter Hook & the Light play Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall Tuesday November 29th (Sold Out).

We’ll be writing on and photographing the show when not cheering and crying as we’ve done on two continents since 2012 so check back with us for more on this story.

Words by Jacqueline Howell, all photographs by Dave MacIntyre

We wrote about Shiiine On Weekender’s first year and the historic, still talked about Peter Hook & the Light show that brought the house (tent) down, here.

Here’s a snippet of that review, just about a year ago now:  “Hooky’s God-like status intact, we are the lucky ones at a very special gig. Here we get no less than an assault of Joy Division and New Order’s finest, and their finest can touch you in places in the heart you thought for sure had died along with your innocence…it’s genius: unencumbered by the grind of breaking in new music and at last answerable only to himself, the fans get an intense and pitch perfect wave of nothing but gold. This alone would have been worth the trip (overseas from Canada to UK), and the ridiculously reasonable ticket price.”

The Prophets of Rage Remind Us That The Party’s Over

By Jacqueline Howell

The Prophets of Rage have hit the road (and the skies) for a large scale tour- there are 27! dates left so you have no excuse to miss this- bringing a much needed, couldn’t-be more- timely-message of, well, RAGE. But in case you aren’t clear, this is not Rage (Against the Machine) under a different name or some kind of cover. This is actually the rarest of things, a risk, a gamble, a big deal. A Supergroup.

That’s what this is.

That’s what these guys are.

For the price of one ticket, you are getting a new collaboration from masters of a number of the most innovative genres of our goddamn modern age (pre and post the 21st century).

Prophets of Rage is Tom Morello, who can shred better than your most over-hyped metal god and doesn’t even seem to break a sweat, Chuck D (who needs NO introduction) the tireless and full of life B-Real, drummer Brad Wilk & Bassist Tim Commeford (Rage) and DJ Lord (Public Enemy). We know Chuck D is the heaviest rap voice (and mind) that has ever lived, a title unchallenged. What is insane though, is that B-Real’s own distinct and differently pitched drawl is a perfect contrast to the legend who came before him. It works so well. And who else could stand in and do Rage Against the Machine Songs? No one but these guys, they are the dream team.

Prophets of Rage are bringing their hardest hits of all three of these iconic, different flavored groups and their own musical touches to this inspired collaboration.

Prophets of Rage is not some name that’s hacked together, Rage-but-not-Rage style. Know (be reminded) that “Prophets of Rage” is a Public Enemy song. Rage’s Zach de la Rocha has given the project his express blessing.

Timing is everything. In life, in music.

And the world utterly NEEDs Prophets of Rage right now to blast out the cobwebs off of culture and music and remind us what music is for.

Music never needed to know what other people thought on social media or blogs or even magazines before creating new sounds. Music is a direct line from them to us, uncorruptable and true.

And the show is a non-stop, energetic tour-de-force that gives fair play and time to each of these groups’ catalogs- rich with serious gold. No one in the world would hear their music suffer if spit by Chuck D, if anything, it’s given new life. The night moves smoothly back and forth from the music of Public Enemy to Rage to Cypress Hill and includes a couple of great covers, Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” (helped out by AWOL Nation’s frontman Aaron Bruno) which is a great side trip and still fits the overall tone somehow. And something remarkable happens in the life of a Toronto audience that’s long on concert experience, jaded, even, and short on the capacity to surprise: Dave Grohl walks out like nothing to do a quick number of MC5’s “Kick out the Jams”. The thrill stadium-wide, then rippling out to friends at home and beyond, is real, and makes us wonder, why no one has ever done this for us before? Not even when bands known to work together are sharing a bill? Why have things gotten so stale?

But this is different. Prophets of Rage are among those musicians with real, quiet power who are doing it their own way. It’s a new world, a world where all the corporate gatekeepers seem to be shut out, and musicians can jam with each other just for us, just because they vibe off each other, just because we are in the right place at the right time. B-Real is in a Public Enemy hooded shirt that we’re dying for. And Chuck D returns the nod wearing a Cypress Hill T-shirt provided by a fan. This is not your average tour. Or night. Or music. This new band in itself is revolutionary and made by people who already reinvented the game at least once each already. And are still innovating. Tonight’s Toronto show is live-streamed on the band’s Facebook page for those watching from home.

And tonight, like every night, there’s The Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” merged with Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” which really shouldn’t work, but does because those songs are both killer jams locked into a sound that could only come from New York City in the 80s. The circle is complete. The Beastie Boys, who’ve had to leave the road forever, are still included in this party, and this song seems like a big nod to them and their place in things. There’s a brotherhood of musicians that is unstoppable in the face of indifference, bad politics, media noise, foolish hype. Because who is louder than musicians? Who drops it harder? Who is cooler? Who is tougher? No one.

Tom Morello stops the show only once: to tell the audience, that, as is customary on this tour, they’ve earmarked a percentage of the proceeds from the show to a local charity to help the hungry in our city. As we cheer, we wonder, why does no one do that? When it seems so relatively simple? And so, our expectations are raised. And we suddenly begin to remember that we are allowed to ask more of our musicians, especially those taking in far more per night than this band (whose tickets tonight start at just $20 and end in the $80 range, when  other band’s who are millionaires nosebleed seats start at $120.) And we remember we can ask more from ourselves. It’s awesome, actually awe-some, and it’s inspiring. What a musician can do from that stage through both art and words is infinite.

Out of Supergroups and in this new and important era of bands coming back out on to the road that needs them, something new is created. Forget the album cycle, the pre-rigged chart, the McMusic and the factory Frankenstein fuckery that goes on to make a pop song at the moment. Remember this shit? Remember all this? Better yet, discover it, if you weren’t there before. And this is just a sampler. This is just an overview of all these groups’ music and all the covers they might want to do or stuff they could create in time. Look backwards and look ahead.

The songs flow, seamless and ebb-less, and the fans are not just told to stay woke, they are woke in a way they’ve maybe never been. Or not for 20 years. Others are stoned beyond comprehension, they’re doomed to miss Grohl and miss Killing in the Name, they 90s-Alternative-danced and whipped their hair just so, and blazed too close to the sun, too much too soon. It’s that kind of night. They won’t care. They were here.

These Prophets of Rage say, Nobody for President. (People can demand change. Someone else. Reforms. Protest. Do we?)

They say, Make Canada Rage Again. (Canada’s rarely raged but the personalized banner and hats for sale, nicely stealing Trump’s dumb and ill-conceived slogan are yet more thoughtful touches that most bands do not bother with, and mean something to us.)

They rap, those great, iconic raps, about all the concerns of their original band’s exact moment they changed culture and music forever- don’t let the media or the state of music today tell you any different. Noise, clutter, crap will always try to drown truth and truthtellers. But doesn’t last like this music does. Prophets are prophets because they do it all sounding as fresh as the day they laid those beats down, and knew they had something. And, we notice much later, they do it all without relying on the words that inflame, the bitches and the hateful N-word. Even though these men are more trustworthy with live grenades than anyone we’ve ever seen up there. But they don’t need any tricks, they are the real deal.

And it’s time for a reality check in music.

Today the Prophets of Rage’s new song, The Party is Over, is #1 on the  rock charts.

It’s a new day. Get on out there.

With special thanks to Chuck D.

Toronto Setlist:

Prophets of Rage
Guerrilla Radio
Miuzi Weighs a Ton
People of the Sun
Take the Power Back
(Rock) Superstar
Hand on the Pump / Can’t Truss It / Insane in the Brain / Bring the Noise / I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That / Welcome to the Terrordome
Sleep Now in the Fire
Cochise / She Watch Channel Zero?!
The Ghost of Tom Joad (Bruce Springsteen cover) (with Aaron Bruno)
Bullet in the Head
Cathedral (Van Halen cover)
Shut ‘Em Down
Know Your Enemy
The Party’s Over
No Sleep Till Brooklyn / Fight the Power
Bulls on Parade
Kick Out the Jams (MC5 cover) (with Dave Grohl)
Killing in the Name

Prophets of Rage Facebook, twitter, official site.

32 of The Tragically Hip’s Greatest Songs That Changed A Nation

The inevitable final Tragically Hip show is already here. All summer long, fans, whose numbers include any music journalists worth their salt and still with a beating pulse and at least a generation of Canadian musicians and those in the know outside our frail borders, and writers and thinkers have been grappling with a new kind of loss. A post-modern kind of turmoil. This turmoil comes from an inner churn that is like standing in a crowd while people brush past you going somewhere else, from different sides at once, ungently, causing you to pivot and move by inches as unconsciously as something not-quite rooted to an ocean floor. This churn, though, is internal, mostly.

Yet, a nation stands and takes notice of something that has always felt (rightly or wrongly) like your private ritual with friends of your youth, tinsel-bright like Christmas, strained and tense and fraught like Christmas is now.

A nation becomes festive and also, somehow, poignantly mournful and the media rises up to reclaim some of its tarnished, squandered and plundered glory and beautiful power to lead people again, and of course, commercial interests are around every corner, too.

We’ve become a web of loosely connected cultures and private worlds that wrestle with all these things inside of a single tweet, a Facebook post that you’d expect would shower down love but is ignored (or brings dull negativity instead of support), a chance meeting with former loved ones, a sudden revelation that your dad knows who The Tragically Hip is (and likes them.)

This is news, but all this news either comes screaming at you like Toronto Sun 150 point red font, or is sent too late by telegram.

Of course, music is forever selective, personal, private, no less private than your religious feelings and political leanings, if any. As dear and as vulnerable as your love and your secrets (if you have any). So-

  • All there is left to say is that the entirely real grief that has risen up from this land from coast to coast and all the way up north in the places you’ll never get to see; the rare feeling of national unity that Canadians reject out of hand to avoid becoming one degree more American than we already are; the conversations with strangers, with authorities, with artists, who are really kindred spirits in a language of music that has always been the one and only currency you trust; the sight of our best, ever, forever poet looking up at a weeping willow in contemplation, in real life, in the strange twists of fate that can happen when your heart and mind is open and you’ve chosen to be bold and start a magazine; even the deafening, and deaf, silences from the corners of life you once believed were true blue and have breathed their last, laughed their last, toasted their last, are part of this thing. From across a canyon.

A nation is growing up and it’s painful. You will have growing pains all your life if you are really alive and so what do you do with that?

First you grieve what is gone, already, and what is ending. That won’t stop with Saturday August 20th when all who are not at a final show in Kingston who care deeply, all of us sports fans now, all of us unified, will be watching from home, yard parties, bars, music halls and even the famed checkerboard floors – but it better damn well unlock something deep that needs to get some air that we’ve been struggling for all summer. This city is nice to tourists but has a default mode of making eye contact behind that on the rarest of occasions, like when our grandfathers celebrated winning the cup and when the Jays won it all (twice in a row!) more than 20 years ago, and the streets were filled with a joy and what should be a human cameraderie that we were all raised to pretend is not ours to claim. It’s no wonder some of us treat family members like lepers and old friends like strangers. But even an old injury or a ghost limb still can hurt.

This, here, is the kind of talk and noise that hits your system in times of grief, of the rising waves of anxiety, the inability to make a decision, of the grief that triggers the other grief in hearts, the tenderest places, the ones that make a person say: I (finally) don’t want to see my old friends anymore (anyway), and reach for strangers instead in our limited way of socializing now, one eye on the mobile and the other on the door, where home awaits and you can really have a good cry. It’s the grown up kind. It’s the post-modern kind. Home awaits, luckily, after all, to unburden all of it but not until after there have been real singalongs with real fans. After beer has been spilled on you and by you and no one checks their makeup anymore. After you approach something of the spiritual cleanse of a proper Irish wake. Or a proper British music festival. Or something bigger and more alive than what Canadians were supposed to be like before all of this, before we grew up. Before we learned our history and our geography and our culture from one very strange and beautiful man and ignored all the rest of ’em who called themselves teachers all our lives.

Then you go on.

Here are 32 (one for each year) of our favourite Tragically Hip songs, noting that there are endless live variations, a brisk history in the live bootleg trade, and three decades of innovation and growth beyond this list. Have we ever heard “She said I’m fabulously rich” sung? Or has it so long been the crowd-sung-unofficially changed (by the singer, too, now) “She said I’m Tragically Hip”? Dunno.

We think it’s useful if you are rusty or new to approach the huge catalogue of music via tempo shifts. So here’s a split between ROCKING and ROLLING (for the ladies…) Still time to jump on board. Just. Do.

For all those who will take to the Toronto streets in celebration tomorrow night, we’ll see you out there and one or the other of us will be in a red Tragically Hip hockey jersey from 15 years ago that is good as new. We’ll be a little active on the Twitter during the evening at Jacqueline‘s and Dave’s accounts as well a bit of Facebook/ Instagram.


At the Hundredth Meridian ” I need to debunk an American myth. I take my life in my hands.” Also contains the best asides ever, worthy of MacBeth.

Blow at High Dough



Boots or Hearts Has an entire music festival named in its honour. “When it starts to fall apart, it really falls apart. Like boots or hearts oh when they start, they really fall apart.”

Fifty – Mission Cap (“Bill Barilko”)  “I worked it in to look like that.”

Little Bones “2.50 for a highball. And a buck and a half for a beer. Happy hour, happy hour, happy hour is here” / “2.50 for an eyeball. And a buck and a half for an ear…” Cancon and the infinite radio replays of this song is probably the root of “the haters”. Which is ridiculous.

Locked in the Trunk of a Car

Looking for a Place to Happen

Nautical Disaster (Gord Downie’s intro from a live recording: “No Canadian band, no Canadian musician, would be complete without a song about a nautical disaster.” (“New Nautical Orleans Disaster”)

New Orleans is Sinking


The Wherewithall

Music @ Work (Yes, even video stars. Big time. A video as good as the lyrics which are historic.)


38 Years Old

Ahead by A Century “I tilted your cloud. You tilted my hand.” In the running for The Hip’s most beautiful songs, from their body of work in the dream-world lyrics they do like no other.

Apartment Song (Did this inspire the gorgeous Apartment Story by The National?)


Escape is at Hand for the Travelling Man

Flamenco  (The guitar chords. The lyrics.) Contains the wonderful line “Maybe a prostitute /could teach you/ how to take a compliment”

Gift Shop Could be about the Grand Canyon. Could be about marriage or life changes. That’s The Hip.

Grace, Too  This is how you start a rock song.


Long Time Running You can remember the greatest bar band that ever was, that The Hip once was. (Perhaps a shared title with The Cowboy Junkies.) TIMELESS.


Pigeon Camera


Springtime in Vienna

Wheat Kings

(Gord Downie solo) Coke Machine Glow

(Gord Downie solo) Vancouver Divorce

It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken

When the colour of the night and all the smoke for one life gives way to shaky movements, improvisational skills, a forest of whispering speakers Let’s swear that we will

get with the times, in a current health to stay
Let’s get friendship right
Get life day-to-day
In the forget-yer-skates dream
Full of countervailing woes
In diverse-as-ever scenes
Proceeding on a need-to-know
In a face so full of meaning
As to almost make it glow

O’ for a good life, we just might have to weaken
And find somewhere to go. Go somewhere we’re needed. Find somewhere to grow.Grow somewhere were needed.
Let’s go somewhere we’re needed. Find somewhere to grow. We grow where we are needed.

All lyrics are copyright The Tragically Hip

Jacqueline Howell

Photos: Dave MacIntyre

Belly, the band who released the great 1995 album King, to Tour UK and US this Summer

When Tanya Donnelly announced in February that Belly, the great 90s Alternative rock band, was reuniting for a tour, it was enough to crash websites and cause a happy panic in long dormant but still devoted core fans around the world. Always underrated, this band enjoyed some success but never got their due or longevity of a career that some bands enjoy (however these are fewer and fewer these days.) This relegated them to that special place in our world where we will always keep the CDs and they still get played, only with an added reverence and an untouchable glow. Their album King is, in our view, a let it play start to finish masterpiece.  All of this has placed Belly atop many fans’ wish list for reunion.

Social media has totally changed the lives and relationships of fans and musicians, for those who are willing to (bravely) engage with the people, as Belly and many others of their generation and positive, down to earth attitude do, gamely. Instead of aloof and mystery, artists now have to reckon with personal requests and may find themselves involved in heavily administrative and PR work that comes with the social media territory. If these bands are both deserving (as Belly’s members are) and lucky, their fans can form a supportive network that gives cues about the feasibility of touring and / or recording new music, but they are cues only. The band still has a big risk and a sea change ahead to mount such an endeavor.

Belly’s February announcement of the planned summer tour came along with the promise of new music- another welcome sign of a sea change for this band (and, as flag bearers for the 90s resurgence we so crave, dare we say, for music itself.) While many 90s bands have reunited to tour on the strength of their past hits, the news of new music is rarer but is the catnip new fans and the blogosphere media tends to crave.

In the case of Belly (the band) there is the possibility of confusion about news, touring information and music, due to a situation beyond the band’s control. There is another solo artist performing under the name “Belly”, a rapper from Canada who entered the fray around the mid-2000s. As such, be sure to suss out touring news about Belly (the band) via the band’s official Facebook page or their website. 

Unofficial and semi-official ticket touting sites have already begun confusing the matter by using the wrong picture (of Belly the band, or their logo) for a gig belonging to the solo rap artist who hails from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Please cross reference any such info with official sources.

Belly the band: Tanya Donnelly, Gail Greenwood, Tom Gorman and Chris Gorman, kick off the U.K. leg of their tour in Glasgow July 15th, with stops in Leeds, Manchester, Norwich, Notts, Bristol, London and Dublin (July 23) before heading back to the U.S. starting with Boston August 9, and hitting major U.S. hubs (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, Philly & more) for the rest of the summer.

Jacqueline Howell

Oscars 2015: The glorious misfits

Tonight’s Oscars was more satisfying and entertaining than we can remember in many years. Setting aside the snark, the shade, and the yelling at the TV we all succumb to in the privacy of our living rooms, and yes, John Travolta was given a chance at redemption for last year’s flub, and yes, he sort of blew it again by being overly touchy, but we decree from the frozen wilds of Toronto, notwithstanding our serious reservations about cults, he seems like a sweetheart of a guy, and always has. It was that kind of night. Put aside your schadenfreude kimono and put down the tequila, darling. We think it was a night even Margo Channing would have raised just one brow, not unkindly, and evaluated the scene with an understanding wave. Ok Kids, go on and have your little night (opens a velvet lined silver cigarette box and lights her 40th dart of the day). Shall we?

Cate Blanchett, presenter, Oscars 2015, Photo: Dan MacMedan, USA Today
Cate Blanchett, presenter, Oscars 2015, Photo: Dan MacMedan, USA Today

Neil Patrick Harris, tonight’s capable host (You’re rehired!) started off the night right with a brave, bravura opening number that showed his formidable chops under the world’s most public televised pressure as he performed a well designed number that explained the tone of the evening: in this post-modern, terrorized, suicidal, ice cap warming, inequitable world, films still matter. When you give your heart over to the magic of the movie musical, it opens up a sense of childlike wonder, optimism and curiousity the likes of which we adults chase to the bottom of many bottles, expensive vacations, or risky dares. Films hook you, and speak back to you in recognition of your unspoken desire, your dream, your wish, your fear, and muse endlessly on the question of how to leave a mark on the world, how to reconcile our humanity with our fellow man’s humanity (and what the hell to do when the two of them collide?) or maybe it’s tonight’s wine talking. No, it happened. The perfect mood was struck, the perfect host was found, and he looked straight into the camera in the final moments of the song with a look of “I got this” of confidence, of joy and pride. By the time Anna Kendrick and Jack Black (bringing out some of his patented Tenacious D branded “Metal” singing) it was a given, we were finally seeing an Oscars for today, in a number that breezily showed us, yes, haters gonna hate, the world gonna suck, apply films liberally and hang in there.

Wes Anderson, cheering on his fellow nominees: The Grand Budapest Hotel took home 4!
Wes Anderson, cheering on his fellow nominees: The Grand Budapest Hotel took home 4!

This year’s ballot itself was a thing of rare joy in a year where diversity in film (indie films, or films with indie spirit, alongside Clint Eastwood Oscar bait with years of pedigree, Meryl Streep up against Patricia Arquette (!!?!?!) films as weird (and we mean weird as a compliment) as Birdman and Boyhood went the full distance, and Wes Anderson finally got his due as an auteur. The always great Michael Keaton who’s been off the radar for a decade rose to the fore and like his character in Birdman come to life, claimed his place and earned awards and accolades through awards season among his acting contemporaries without ever losing his cool. 5 time nominee, big talent, great beauty and deserving winner Julianne Moore finally got hers tonight, with all the tears, naturalism and humility as we always knew she’d bring whens she finally reached that podium after 20 years in the game. The world finally learned how to say, and spell, Benedict Cumberbatch this year as he reached the A-list he so deserves to be in. Ed Norton effortlessly made a mark in not one but two best picture nominations (Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel) giving a fantastic counterbalance to Keaton’s performance that will go down in history (once it’s more widely seen) every bit as much as his tour-de-force out of nowhere debut Primal Fear (1996). There’s been a lot of jokes & memes going around that the 90’s are back, and we can add another point to the list: Patricia Arquette won an Oscar. That’s right, our own Alabama from True Romance (1993) she who tastes like a peach, trumped permanent winner Meryl Streep.

It felt a little like the Freaks and Geeks had finally taken over the school tonight: the theater kids, the exchange students, the people who didn’t campaign for their life but were recognized for effort, originality, and the work. There’s so much behind the work of a film that we can imagine the parties going on in little pockets around the world, in hotel rooms, in family gatherings, in a home-town sports bar. It felt like the opening musical number wanted us to feel: that movies matter. That there’s hope for the future.

Graham Moore: Winner of Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game, Oscar 2015 photo: Patrick T. Fallon for The New York Times
Graham Moore: Winner of Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game, Oscar 2015 photo: Patrick T. Fallon for The New York Times

The theme of heartfelt speeches started early with a determination from non-celebrity winners who carried on and outlasted the “play off” music. This became a trend throughout the night. Patton Oswald, the best actor-comedian in the Twitter game, was in good form tonight and summarized it nicely:

twitter po

The often bloated-feeling 3.5 hours long ceremony has many key marks to hit that are familiar to all regular viewers, and yet there was a quality to this year’s winners (and subject matters of their projects) that made room for a new kind of non-polarizing, open activism that invited cheers instead of boos (Donald Trump tweeted his unhappiness confirms the tone was exactly right). Arquette started this off by taking a moment out of non-read speech to speak for wage equality among men and women. With many issues competing for the public consciousness and dollars, this statement felt genuine and heartfelt. The subjects of suicide prevention, acceptance, Alzheimer’s awareness (featured in two nominated works, the Julianne Moore starring-Still Alice, and I’ll Be Me, a documentary about singer Glen Campbell’s experiences with the disease, for which his original song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” was nominated),  shout outs to whistleblowers, a call for equality issues in general and notably, profoundly expressed in a stellar musical performance of “Glory” by Oscar winners John Stevens & Lonnie Lynn (or as you may know them, John Legend & Common) who made a lot more people think about seeing Selma.

Watch the 3-standing-ovation and Oscar winning performace of “Glory” from Selma HERE.

More coverage, pictures and debriefing to follow tomorrow. For now, we leave you with a list of the winners in all the categories and some comprehensive links for further reading for those of you that needed to sleep, as we do.

Best Picture
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole, (WINNER)
“American Sniper” Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan, Producers
“Boyhood” Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, Producers
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson, Producers
“The Imitation Game” Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman, Producers
“Selma” Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
“The Theory of Everything” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten, Producers
“Whiplash” Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, Producers

Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything” (WINNER)
Michael Keaton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher”
Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper”
Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game”

Julianne Moore in “Still Alice” (WINNER)
Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones in “The Theory of Everything”
Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”

“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu (WINNER)
“Boyhood” Richard Linklater
“Foxcatcher” Bennett Miller
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson
“The Imitation Game” Morten Tyldum

Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash” (WINNER)
Robert Duvall in “The Judge”
Ethan Hawke in “Boyhood”
Edward Norton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher”

Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood” (WINNER)
Laura Dern in “Wild”
Keira Knightley in “The Imitation Game”
Emma Stone in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods”

Adapted Screenplay
“The Imitation Game” Written by Graham Moore (WINNER)

“American Sniper” Written by Jason Hall
“Inherent Vice” Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Theory of Everything” Screenplay by Anthony McCarten
“Whiplash” Written by Damien Chazelle

Original Screenplay
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo (WINNER)

“Boyhood” Written by Richard Linklater
“Foxcatcher” Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
“Nightcrawler” Written by Dan Gilroy

Animated Feature
“Big Hero 6” Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli (WINNER)

“The Boxtrolls” Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold
“Song of the Sea” Tomm Moore and Paul Young
“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura

Documentary Feature
“CitizenFour” Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky (WINNER)
“Finding Vivian Maier” John Maloof and Charlie Siskel
“Last Days in Vietnam” Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester
“The Salt of the Earth” Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier
“Virunga” Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

Original Song
“Glory” from “Selma”
Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn (WINNER)

“Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”
Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
“Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights”
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me”
Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
“Lost Stars” from “Begin Again”
Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

Foreign Language Film
“Ida” Poland (WINNER)
“Leviathan” Russia
“Tangerines” Estonia
“Timbuktu” Mauritania
“Wild Tales” Argentina

Original Score
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Alexandre Desplat (WINNER)
“The Imitation Game” Alexandre Desplat
“Interstellar” Hans Zimmer
“Mr. Turner” Gary Yershon
“The Theory of Everything” Jóhann Jóhannsson

Film Editing
“Whiplash” Tom Cross (WINNER)

“American Sniper” Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach
“Boyhood” Sandra Adair
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Barney Pilling
“The Imitation Game” William Goldenberg

Visual Effects
“Interstellar” Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher (WINNER)
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
“Guardians of the Galaxy” Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Emmanuel Lubezki (WINNER)
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Robert Yeoman
“Ida” Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
“Mr. Turner” Dick Pope
“Unbroken” Roger Deakins

Costume Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Milena Canonero (WINNER)
“Inherent Vice” Mark Bridges
“Into the Woods” Colleen Atwood
“Maleficent” Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive
“Mr. Turner” Jacqueline Durran

Makeup and Hairstyling
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier (WINNER)
“Foxcatcher” Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard
“Guardians of the Galaxy” Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Jennifer Aniston and Emma Stone on the Oscars red carpet Photo: Dan MacMedan, USA Today
Jennifer Aniston and Emma Stone on the Oscars red carpet Photo: Dan MacMedan, USA Today

Production Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock (WINNER)
“The Imitation Game” Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
“Interstellar” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
“Into the Woods” Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
“Mr. Turner” Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

Animated Short Film
“Feast” Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed (WINNER)
“The Bigger Picture” Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
“The Dam Keeper” Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
“Me and My Moulton” Torill Kove
“A Single Life” Joris Oprins

Live Action Short Film
“The Phone Call” Mat Kirkby and James Lucas (WINNER)
“Aya” Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
“Boogaloo and Graham” Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney
“Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)” Hu Wei and Julien Féret
“Parvaneh” Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger

Documentary Short Subject
“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry (WINNER)
“Joanna” Aneta Kopacz
“Our Curse” Tomasz Sliwinski and Maciej Slesicki
“The Reaper (La Parka)” Gabriel Serra Arguello
“White Earth” J. Christian Jensen

Sound Mixing
“Whiplash” Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley (WINNER)
“American Sniper” John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
“Interstellar” Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
“Unbroken” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee

Sound Editing
“American Sniper” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman (WINNER)
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
“Interstellar” Richard King
“Unbroken” Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro


The New York Times staff did a terrific job of live blogging, constant updates of photos from the broadcast, and notable tweets and comments for anyone who can’t get enough, like us, or needs to catch up!

Read here

To you, our Valentines forever: All of Step On mag’s playlists, featured artists, and mix tapes are now on our SoundCloud page

Announcement: We’ve set up our SoundCloud page to feature playlists for each of our four “Lend an ear” Shoegazer bands to watch features that we’ve rounded up over the last month.

We’ll also be adding playlists for:

All the bands/artists that we’ve reviewed and new releases we’ve written about this month. We may add a few surprises with bands we are planning to feature soon

All the songs (if available) featured on our Mix Tapes “For Lost Loves and Dashed Friendships” (vol. 1) and “Phony Beatlemania” (vol. 2) and future mix tapes

We’ll update with some other playlists of favourites and music from all different genres and eras that inspire us

We’ve had a great month and met many great music artists and those who support them around the world, and we are happy to celebrate. Thank you all for reading, liking, commenting, sharing and for emailing us with ideas for features about bands and artists, we’ve found diamonds! True to our mission, we’ve been shouting from our virtual platform about the great music being made globally by quality artists and we couldn’t be happier if David Brent himself went home and got his guitar to serenade us.

Song starts at :40 – Spaceman / Free love Freeway

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Most Of My Heroes Don’t Appear on No Stamps

“Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps” – Public Enemy, Fight the Power – 1988

“Basquiat at the AGO: Separating the art from the art star – The question remains, does the legendary, tragic artist Jean-Michel Basquiat fascinate because of what he made or how he stopped making it?” – The Toronto Star, February 1, 2014

Let’s discuss the idea of celebrity fascination & death, artists, heroes and deities.

Why do we afford some artists the courtesy of minimizing premature, bad deaths and not others?  Are legends made, or is legendary status prescribed by those holding the copyrights, the master recordings, and the rare photograph? Is it a relic left over from the Hippie dream that Manson destroyed so easily in 1969? Should we believe the hangers-on made good? The ex-wives? The art experts?

The Beatles are worshipped as musical deities by critics and multitudes of fans. The fact of John Lennon’s assassination is not considered to infuse their myth with greater, or even outsized, meaning. The word “assassination” is out of fashion, too powerful, too threatening to the myth it interrupts while silently cementing it in place. It seems impossible to imagine that Lennon’s murder did not jump-start the canonization of his old band that he and the rest had run from a decade before.  Generations born as The Beatles ended and Lennon was assassinated and their catalogue became an asset for millionaires to trade like baseball cards and Apple Computers was rumoured to be named for them and on and on have no choice but to love The Beatles or be damned, for it’s a dull, accepted & expected societal norm.

Like those who are genetically predisposed to be repulsed by the taste and smell of cilantro, finding it “soapy”, there are people who don’t care for The Beatles and for whom “Love, love me do” is nothing more than the tinny loudspeaker soundtrack  of now- defunct 80’s retro hamburger joints they grew up in. Right on cue, comes the craving: too much garlic and piles of real cheddar and properly grilled, light, perfect buns. This shit is perfectly commercialized, but grilled to perfection.

For them, “Imagine” is some generic commercial sounding song that is received  by The Beatles- immune with an inquisitive pause for the tag line of whoever licensed its use to sell something. “Helter Skelter” was effectively stolen by Charles Manson. “Birthday” is a reference from Sixteen Candles. “Twist and Shout” belongs to Ferris Bueller crashing, and improving, a parade.  John Hughes was of the Beatles generation and used this music in his films as a gateway to introduce new forms of music that do not owe anything to them. Molly Ringwald, his onetime muse, and ours, led him to the music that L.A. kids were actually listening to. Modern music stands against the Beatles. Punk and Post-Punk obliterate them. Electronic music (Kraftwerk, New Order, OMD) make tracks as far away as they can get from the Albatross of the Beatles. Hip Hop remixed it all into entirely new forms. The Beatles were bigger than Jesus for a while but they aren’t Jesus.

There is a pretense among the devoted, including leading music critics and corporate entities of ’80, post Lennon’s assassination and onward, that The Beatles deserve all the accolades they can get, need dozens if not hundreds of tomes written about them, and that all the other commercial products and reproductions done in their name for half a century are not just cynical cash grabs and micro fame bids from those less-talented multitudes who’d like to beg, borrow, or steal a piece of that infernal legend. This lie depends on the narrative never settling on Lennon’s death and all the darkness surrounding it, including his own politics, arrogance, burned bridges, feuds, messy personal life, money, drugs, radicalism, ego and hubris. Somehow that dreadful looking 1970’s bed-in anti-mop top long hair and beard has done its work and a trick has been pulled, transposing Lennon with Jesus in his public’s imagination.

Elvis fans can fill their days listening to nothing but his extensive catalogue and are fulfilled and reminded of their youthful glow. This music, for the devoted, delivers time and again and no amount of collectible bric-a-brac for sale in tabloids or new permutations of the once-impossibly beautiful young Priscilla Presley’s face can trouble the ambient dream that Elvis fans enjoy. Elvis died at 42 years old. 42 YEARS OLD. What a waste, what a sin, what a crime for a man to do to themselves, their fans, their legacy. He abused his body with drugs and food, or, if we reach for some human empathy, as we sometimes do today for the special ones, he “self-medicated” his pain from (????) in this way. The amount of strain, of suspension of disbelief required to remain clear-eyed and loving toward a wealthy and beloved hero/singer/icon who died in this way at such a young age, rather than feel abject disgust and betrayal, is startling. Anyone born after ’77 knows fat Elvis, sweaty Elvis, caricature of Elvis, shadow of Elvis, country -trash indiscriminate, gaudy, money spending Elvis, Elvis-impersonator freaks Elvis, Eddie Murphy -skewering Elvis, and must look very hard to understand any other.

These dubious saints, Elvis and Lennon, sailed past their peak and were extinguished by the time Basquiat inhabited downtown Manhattan. The Clash said, rather matter-of-factly, in 1979: “Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust.” At that moment, out of the dust rose a singular talent lyrically named Jean-Michel Basquiat.

It is a culturally relevant coincidence that Jean-Michel Basquiat hit the New York street-art, downtown and then quickly, glided into the uptown art scene about the time of Lennon’s murder nearby and three years after Elvis died.  Lennon’s image, words, protests, opinions and fame made him a target and he was silenced. There are no conspiracies about this assassination as the questions they would raise would hit far too close to home for his generation of fans and their most cherished belief systems. Yet, we minimize this death, as his image, words, ditties and music are considered bullet-proof and unkillable. He was sanctified, and in many ways, sanitized. Basquiat’s too-recent, not sepia-toned pedigree, his skin, and his work that was never cuddly, refuses any and all such hollow myth-making for mass consumption. What’s most impressive about it is that it speaks for itself and doesn’t need any help from the art scholar at all to be appreciated, as it’s visceral. It offers more than you could ever impress upon it even if a million words were written on the subject, like those 10 years of The Beatles that people can’t get enough of.

It is most definitely, always, a tragedy when someone dies young, and by young, we mean 27 or 40.  It is always a tragedy to lose an artist of any age who has much to say and has barely been heard yet, even as the outward markers of success suggest a phenomenon. It is a terrible loss, forever in the bones and nerves and heart and the brain we understand so little about, to lose someone we love. Someone we barely knew. Someone who changed the shape of the world, the space-time continuum, whether our mother, our friend, or Jean-Michel Basquiat.

But remember, we are talking about a great artist here. A visionary. An original. A wit. A brain. A cultural sponge. A self-made man. A boy with great style. A boy who lives on and on, in 1000 pieces of work spread out across the whole world, some of it destroyed, lost, hidden, and hoarded, but, through some miracle,  some of right here in Toronto for a few short months of winter. Remember the love that Elvis gets, that Lennon gets, as these figures are preserved in amber and mounted with their pale cheeks still soft, their forelocks still boyish,  good boys, loved this way, not the ways they later changed or failed to stay innocent. They look out and sing out, immortal, from those ancient pictures and recordings that their fans use as mirrors, where the devoted are forever 16 with everything ahead of them, every possible future, and John and Elvis sing, on an endless loop “love me” and you do. Tenderly.

Icons, Heroes, Celebrities & Deities: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s rightful place transcends fascination at AGO preview show

“Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps” – Public Enemy, Fight the Power – 1988

“Basquiat at the AGO: Separating the art from the art star – The question remains, does the legendary, tragic artist Jean-Michel Basquiat fascinate because of what he made or how he stopped making it?” – The Toronto Star, February 1, 2014

Let’s discuss the idea of celebrity fascination & death, artists, heroes and deities.

Why do we afford some artists the courtesy of minimizing premature, bad deaths and not others?  Are legends made or is legendary status prescribed by those holding the copyrights, the master recordings, and the rare photograph? Is it a relic left over from the Hippie dream that Manson destroyed so easily in 1969? Should we believe the hangers-on made good? The ex-wives? The art experts?



Continue reading “Icons, Heroes, Celebrities & Deities: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s rightful place transcends fascination at AGO preview show”

The Jesus and Mary Chain to celebrate 30th anniversary of Psychocandy at Canadian Music Week


Today at 10:55 a.m. was one of those rare, special “refresh refresh refresh” moments as Toronto (and visiting) fans of the one and only Jesus and Mary Chain waited for tickets to go on sale  at 11:00. The just announced May 1st show at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto, Canada as part of Canadian Music Week’s program, was the biggest surprise in a  diverse and strong program this year.

Tickets can be found at Ticket Web and will sell out fast.

Click here to go to Ticket Web link

It is expected that JAMC will be playing their stellar 1985 debut record, Psychocandy, in full as part of their U.K. /U.S./ Canadian tour.

The Phoenix, as one of Toronto’s mid sized venues (less than stadium sized but bigger than many rock clubs) has a capacity of just 1,350 so tickets will be extremely limited.

We are so excited to have gotten our tickets (after much “refreshing”) and will have more coverage of the show and other notables on the CMW program to come in the months ahead.

Now, on with the celebration!

For as you already know,  “The Hardest Walk you could ever take is the walk you take from A to B….to C”

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