Classic Rock: A Man Turns 50 and Fixates on a Simple Lyric

In this month’s guest post, Geoff Moore continues his analysis on the cultural impact of rock ‘n’ roll. Is rock music still a buffer against the madness of our times?  Is it a mass, subcultural delusion?  Is it both?  Is it possible to ‘get it right the next time’?  Read on, good people ...


Is there a more bittersweet and stubborn affirmation in rock ‘n’ roll than the last lines of Bob Seger’s ‘Roll Me Away?’ “Next time, next time we’ll get it right!”

It could be humanity’s universal epitaph, both micro and macro. It’s the royal we inside your head as you file the divorce decree amongst your personal papers. Eddie Van Halen musing about lead singers. The vow of Pentagon generals following two Gulf wars. The studied, rueful voices of Wall Street and Detroit’s Big Three in Washington with caps in hand even as Maple Leaf Foods plant managers seem to have Def Leppard’s Listeria (sic) album stuck on repeat.

In the “Lord love us and saints preserve us” category of this new age, a National Post story last month reported that the American Academy of Pediatricians has called for the hot dog’s shape to be reconfigured as to reduce the risk of toddlers choking on their ineptly prepared lunches; the absurdity of the nanny state mentality goes from worse to offal. And what more can provincial health officials doing a forensic on their temporary H1N1 vaccine clinics tell us? A back-pedaling green demagogue: Did we say global warming? We meant climate change.

Hey! You try cooking incomplete and inaccurate data!

It’s a world gone wrong, a ball of confusion and everything is broken. Next time, we’ll get it right, hockey stick computer models and frankfurters not withstanding.  When rock ‘n’ roll grew out of its imitation Elvis, teen idol years it seemed like the expanding soundtrack to a legitimate, alternative, more democratic and inclusive way for the West to mind and operate itself and interact with the rest of the world. Salvation was as near as side one, track two, at least in the eyes of the first generation of university educated American rock critics, who of course comprised a club almost as exclusive as the artists they covered. Fortunate sons would be lined up against the figurative wall.

In reality it was a matter of months from the birth of Eden to the fall, from the muddy idyll of Woodstock to the violent chaos of Altamont. Consider the breadth of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land’ for a moment, each festival was mounted in a coastal state, on the eastern and western fringes of America. Perhaps this is the explanation for rock ‘n’ roll’s failed promise, the musical geography pretty much jibes with the United States’ traditional red and blue political topography. Next time, we’ll get it right.

The Kinks’ Ray Davies came clean in the late 70s: “It’s only music, only jukebox music.” If you’re of a certain age (oh, say, um, 50), you’ve watched the Rolling Stones transform from a perceived threat to the establishment into a corporation, one that operates more efficiently than many present and former Fortune 500 companies at that. You have grown up listening to Bruce Springsteen grow up, slow dancing with your cat even while the scruffy and poetic romantic suites shrivelled into bitter Raymond Carver vignettes.

The Clash imploded attempting to fuse the dichotomy of revolution rock, that unstable alchemy of politics and pop. Meanwhile, Bob Dylan, once the unwilling voice of a generation, has recast himself, and wonderfully so, as the curator of American music, immersing himself these past 10 years in the blues, roots, country and murder ballads.

And so what is the legacy of this once grand sub-genre of current popular music aside from interactive vidiot games? Well, Stephen Harper is not our parents’ Prime Minister: apparently, he likes AC/DC. Imagining ‘Mistress for Christmas’ rattling the leaden windows of 24 Sussex Drive, while a jarring audio-visual non sequitur, is very likely still a little too staid an image for the tricky 18-24 voter demographic. John Mellencamp and Dylan played the White House recently, but they’re not making policy, which, when you come right down to it, might be a good thing.

Happily, the music marketplace is awash with burnished relics as the canon is being slowly and lovingly re-mastered and repackaged with fussy care.  This is definitely a case of getting it right the next time (and we’ll not question the record industry’s integrity nor motivation in following the Elvis Presley Enterprises model of selling the same product two or three times over under the guise of new and improved).

The basic, universal theme of rock ‘n’ roll, once it has been stripped down to the bone and all of the excess meat, marrow and sinew has been boiled away, is, simply, freedom – in all its abstract complexity. And freedom is a risky thing as it multiplies the opportunities for, as Neil Young so eloquently put it, ‘F*!#in’ Up.’ But even in its lamest and most commercial incarnations, rock ‘n’ roll remains the finest baffle and the finest buffer against the full throttle madness raging outside your front door. Out there it seems everyone and everything is f*!#in’ up.

Maybe they’ll get it right next time.


Geoff Moore is a writer from Calgary.  He’s just turned 50.  Happy Birthday, Geoff!

Fantasy Albums: Lennon & McCartney 30th Anniversary Unplugged

It’s Beatles day!  This day in 1964, the Fab Four appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, their  stardom in North America assured.  And this is the 3rd annual celebration of that day here on the ‘Bin of (I can’t believe it).  So, let the very nerdy celebration begin!

As a sort of companion piece to an earlier post of mine, Beatles ’71. That post told the tale of the Beatles taking a break in 1969, re-defining their band for themselves by taking the pressure off with concurrent solo careers, and putting out an album to follow up Abbey Road in 1971.  Here is another in the possible series of fantasy Beatles albums, thought up entirely by me.  Of course, if that earlier post indulged in major revisionist history, then this one multiplies that by ten. In the real timeline of course, Lennon was killed in the street in 1980.  Not so in this timeline, friends.  That’s a pretty big barrier to overcome.  But, that’s the great thing about fantasy, right?

Here’s the story so far.  Besides solo careers, The Beatles released material very sporadically after Beatles ’71. By this time, the Beatles were a hobby band, a refuge rather than a millstone for the four men who created it.  So, they took their time with the Beatles, enough to make sure that the Beatles were, above all things, fun for them.

So, after Beatles ’71 they put out a double-A side single in “Junior’s Farm/#9 Dream” in 1974.  Then, they release a double live album in the year of double live  album releases, 1976. Their last studio album, Free As A Bird is released in 1980.  After that, Harrison ducks out of the music business for most of the 1980s to concentrate on his film company.  And the Beatles never re-emerge on LP before Harrison’s death in 2001, although a new double A-side single is  released in 1987 to celebrate the 20th anniversary release of Sgt. Pepper (‘When We Was Fab“/”Once Upon A Long Ago“).  Another double A-side single is released 1994 in celebration of the Anthology project.

But, while The Beatles are on hiatus, Lennon and McCartney record a very special TV show on MTV and a parallel album in 1993, the 30th year anniversary of the release of their first number one song and album.   The concert would be at the Ed Sullivan Theatre. The duo gathered a band, mostly on McCartney’s recommendation, but with Lennon’s approval.  And it is decided that since this is a celebration of the two young composers they once were, the material on the album is centered on the fruits of their earliest work, plus some of their favourite R&B covers that helped to inspire them.

The setting of the album is subdued and casual, and of course acoustic and live in front of an intimate crowd.  The proceedings are punctuated with humour and of the reminiscing of that earliest period of their careers.

Here is that record!

Lennon & McCartney: 30th Anniversary Unplugged

John Lennon – Vocals, guitar, harmonica

Paul McCartney – Vocals, guitar

Robbie Mckintosh – guitar

Pino Pallidino – Bass

Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens – piano, accordion

Alan White – drums

  1. Love Me Do
  2. Please Please Me
  3. I Call Your Name
  4. Some Other Guy
  5. There’s A Place
  6. Things We Said Today
  7. If I Fell
  8. All My Loving
  9. Baby’s in Black
  10. Money Honey
  11. Hippy Hippy Shake
  12. Not A Second Time
  13. I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party
  14. Soldier of Love
  15. Ask Me Why
  16. Yes It is

Of course, the Beatles Anthology project would be broadcast the next year, with Lennon of course giving new interviews and fresh insights to the proceedings.  A new double A-side single from the Beatles is released in celebration.  A tour is considered, briefly.  But, Harrison holds out, and the others decide concentrate on their personal lives, as a phase of the Beatles as an entity enters what they call its “twilight years”.  All of this despite huge offers for world tours and record deals.

Solo careers continue, and among other projects, McCartney and Lennon record another live album together.

Lennon records an album with Wilco as his backing band …

Anyway, before I get carried away, what’s your take, good people?  Any songs that should be in the running order that I missed? Indulge yourself!


Classic Rock: Sunday Night Super Bowl Spotlights

In this month’s guest post, sports fan, culture critic , and rock music aficionado Geoff Moore focuses his eye on the TV sporting event extravaganza the Super Bowl.  With an event that places as much importance on the half-time show and its requisite musical guests, how does this reflect on the impact of rock n’ roll as a once proud bastion of cultural revolution, as opposed to a marketing mouthpiece which is fodder for pure, ratings-optimizing spectacle?  Wade on in, good people …


Roman numerals are like Mods, you don’t encounter them much anymore unless you spin early Chicago albums, cite a particular incarnation of Deep Purple, do crossword puzzles, or follow the National Football League.

Super Bowl XLIV is nearly upon us. Historically the American football championship game has proved to be akin to a non-album B-side, rather dull and of interest to fanatics only. But XLIV provides the tilt so much more gravitas than your average Arabic 44, Boo Boo. Dirty Harry’s .44 excepted: ‘But being as this is an XLIV Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question, Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?’ Doesn’t exactly make your day, does it?

The Super Bowl, whatever its number, draws more than football fans to television screens. The NFL’s season finale has become equally noted for its advertising and musical content, just as the glad rags paraded on Hollywood’s red carpet now rival the actual Academy Awards naked crusader statuette presentations. The game with all its pageantry is America’s singular television event, its annual gift to the globe.

That the stodgy old NFL, its rotating cast of broadcast partners and corporate sponsors have embraced rock ‘n’ roll as suitable Super Bowl entertainment in 21st century speaks to the league’s marketing acumen. A cast of hundreds with fistfuls of flags and ribbons dancing through a Tribute to Show Tunes! will not hold viewers’ attentions through to the next commercial when there’s no football being played between the third and fourth quarters, but beam a music legend into living rooms from the gridiron and well, now you’ve got eyeball glue.

Who’s left of the Who will perform the theme songs of Super Bowl presenter CBS’s various CSIs to an anticipated world-wide television audience of 100 million souls at the half. Pete and Roger will play for about 12 minutes. By contrast, a 30-second ad buy for one of the 62 slots available during the 2010 telecast is priced to move at about $2.5-million (US) to $2.8-million (US) per spot. A relative bargain as North America ‘re-calibrates’ (Thank you, PM Stephen Harper!) itself admidst the lingering sludge of the 2009 global recession, or a savings of some $200,000 to $500,000 compared to last year’s game.* Air time is money and the Who’s 12 minutes of medley will no doubt pay out double at the window of the iTunes store. Maybe they’ll move a few commemorative t-shirts and some other merch at

Unsurprisingly, Geffen released yet another Who greatest hits compilation late last December aimed specifically at Luddite viewers whose interest in the band may be piqued by its prime time performance February 7 at the really recently re-handled Sun Life Stadium (the naming rights a steal at a mere $4 million (US) per annum for four years and so no reason to worry about your insurance premiums rising) which is situated somewhere in the humid metroplex now known as South Florida.

In 2009 Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band made a rare PR misstep by releasing a Wal-Mart exclusive best of CD in conjunction with their halftime performance. The Boss had made a deal with ‘the man’ by joining Sam’s club. If you scroll through Springsteen’s catalogue on his web site, you skip straight from ‘Magic’ to ‘Working On a Dream’ with nothing in between. That Super Bowl disc has disappeared into night and fog.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers reissued their 1993 ‘Greatest Hits’ in 2008 just in time for their Super Bowl appearance. The album was reconfigured. A loving cover of Thunderclap Newman’s ‘Something In the Air’ was dropped in favour of the Petty-penned ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.’ No point spreading those spiked football royalties around either.

This is not to vilify these artists for looking to cash in, especially in these strange and formatless days when the CD appears to be diving after the 8-track into certain oblivion. You’d have to be certifiably insane not to leverage the hell out of the exposure a Super Bowl gig provides. It’s right up there with dying young as far as good career moves go. Maybe the only rocker in the world who wouldn’t give a damn about the pseudo prestige and such a potentially massive windfall is Keith Richards. The same could not be said about his glimmering partner in crime.

What remains wildly disconcerting about the big game and all its surrounding pomp is that its recent roster of halftime talent, the Who, Petty, Springsteen, the Stones, Prince and Paul McCartney, while past their primes but not yet in their dotages, are still among the biggest acts in the world. And yet they trod upon a trail blazed by the Grambling State University Band and Up with People.

Let’s drop a capital letter for a little context. Super Bowl XIV (MCMLXXX), the Steelers are looking for their fourth consecutive championship. Player’s butts and roaches in the ashtray, beer bottles everywhere, waiting for the third quarter gun as Up with People presents instantly forgettable, lame schlock on the portable colour TV: a Salute to the Big Band Era.†

At that moment in time, it’s preposterous, unfathomable, freaking psych ward delusional to even imagine for a single millisecond that there could be the remotest possibility that any act in your record collection would ever deem to play the Super Bowl as a sideshow attraction, let alone be asked to do so by the straight-laced, rich, old, white men’s club that is the NFL executive. As for XXV or XXX years down the road? All of rock’s heroes would be retired or deceased anyway, right?

(Best ever song about football ? Perhaps the only song about football? Steve Earle’s ‘No. 29’ off Exit 0. [ED:I like Fountains of Wayne ‘All Kinds of Time’ myself.])

*All figures The Associated Press



Geoff Moore is an author who lives in Calgary, Alberta.  Don’t steal his favourite chair when the game’s on, m’kay?

Elvis Lives On!

Elvis would have been 75 years old today. He was not just a singer.  He was a game-changer; a living, breathing icon of the 20th century.  Guest writer Geoff Moore explores the two poles of Elvis Presley, that of the R&B and country aficionado who burned it up on vinyl and on TV, as well as the merchandising industry he has become,a brand as kitschy as you please.  Of course,  there are plenty of juicy gray areas in between …


Elvis has been dead, or wandering anonymously through small, middle American towns scarfing doughnuts or living in outer space with the assistance of NASA, since 1977. January 8, 2010 is the 75th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birth. If you did not know that, you will soon enough. The former Mrs. Presley, Priscilla, has her finger on the pulse of the marketing arm of Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) and it will be flexing its meaty bicep shortly, perhaps while decanting a delightful Elvis 75 Merlot.

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll is an industry now (Nasdaq ticker symbol CKXE), one based solely on the exploits and the existence of a single individual. An industry with a finite supply of decent, authentic product suffocating beneath an avalanche of kitsch and crapola. This is a business model that any sane banker would shred after reading, but there it is – pop culture’s first punch line is worth millions.

You can be sure that the minions of the recently deceased, self-dubbed, King of Pop, that delusional usurper, a spawn of MTV and a lamb to Internet slaughter, have taken notes. And you fear that similar cult of personality empires, Oprah’s and Martha Stewart’s for example, may best the Third Reich and actually exist for a thousand years.

But, you know what? A jukebox-shaped, lacquered, ’68 Comeback Special clock looks pretty cool hanging inside the garage by the door, provided you get the irony; provided you understand that all this junk, the commemorative album cover bathroom tiles, the McFarlane figurines, the wines, the shot glasses, the Pez dispensers, the tins of Valentine chocolates, the dashboard ornaments and the Christmas decorations comprise what might be pop culture’s first postmodern joke.

Lest we forget, beneath this heap of crud stickered with ‘official merchandise’ foil holograms there remains a strange, country cat with a cosmic voice: “I don’t sing like nobody.” He was prettier than most girls his age and he shook like a burlesque queen; television was in its infancy crying to be fed and the first wave of the baby boom was old enough to buy records. Circumstances colluded to forge the first of America’s 20th century pop culture avatars and their anointed sovereign.

RCA Victor’s Elvis Presley and Elvis both released in 1956 as long players may have established the music industry’s preferred format for selling rock ‘n’ roll to young people, a format which was to last some 30 years. Add From Elvis in Memphis (1969), recorded following the magical high of the ’68 Comeback Special, and there, arguably, is Elvis’s essential vinyl (don’t forget On Stage February 1970 as a classic post-60s live document – ed.) if you are comparing his album output to the must-haves in the catalogues of the greats who shadowed the pathfinder: Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones, Springsteen… Elvis distilled to just three LPs? A woefully inadequate measure, because the King cannot be held to the same johnny-come-lately standards as the jester, the princes and the prophet.

First, foremost and above all, there are the earthquaking Sun sides recorded in Sam Phillips’s Memphis studio by a blonde truck driver. Glorious and primitive (and revisited with such obvious affection during the black leather performance portion of the ’68 Comeback Special), these songs – ‘Mystery Train,’ ‘Baby, Let’s Play House,’ ‘That’s All Right,’ ‘Trying to Get to You’ et al – are the very essence of Elvis, his core of greatness: “Hold it, fellas, let’s get real, real gone.”

His years in the wilderness of the Hollywood studio system make you wish he was managed by a cannier con man than Colonel Tom Parker, someone like Andrew Loog Oldham, maybe? Alas, what is done is done. Two Leiber-Stoller songs stand out among the soundtrack fodder, ‘Jailhouse Rock’ naturally and ‘Trouble,’ their brilliant send up of boastful 12-bar blues from King Creole (‘If you’re looking for trouble, look right in my face!’).

There are many more movie gems to be mined and heard, but like the diminishing returns of his 70s live and half-hearted studio album output (with their grotesquely unhip and uniformly cheesy cover art), you need to work at it a little bit. There are worse things to dig through. And many, many worse things to dig.

Elvis: rocker, soul man, crooner, country singer and gospel shouter is best explored and experienced on a song by song basis. He was the ultimate singles artist, and as such, is uniquely poised to be rediscovered and appreciated once again in this ADD age of iPod shuffles and YouTube shorts. Perhaps the EPE generated hype surrounding the upcoming 75th anniversary of his birth will create a modest convergence of music and media, of old and new, of analog and digital, introducing the King to an entirely new generation of listeners; renewing the focus on his music and reminding all of us that the branded schlock available on the toy and home decor aisles in Wal-Mart was never ever what Elvis Presley was all about.


Geoff Moore is a writer who lives in Calgary, and who I’m sure has a collection white, sequined jumpsuits in his closet.

Classic Rock: Guilty Pleasures, Alcohol and Experiments with a Cat

This month’s guest post from music fan, pop culture critic, and author Geoff Moore places him in the role of musical scientist, with labcoat and clip board, possibly safety goggles. Geoff answers the question of what happens when the common house cat is exposed to music of varying genres and degrees of quality.  Put down the catnip, pop a beer, and read on!


There’s a throw on the couch in the living room (which may be a great room in current real estate jargon) because Angus the tabby likes the couch a lot. The little bastard is the only one who uses the couch and he sheds grey, white and caramel fur as he kneads the cushions before he settles.

And once the yogi-yoga position gut grooming is completed, all limbs are tucked away out of sight as he assumes the regal pose of a decoy duck, or maybe the Sphinx, but on a substantially smaller scale and with a genuine cat head. Television entertains him, but only football and hockey and he’s savvy enough to know that the figures on the screen cannot be attacked. Everything else in the cable universe induces sleep; he’s like a lot of people that way.

Twenty-five year-old Mission stereo speakers are on the TV bench, on either side of the screen. There are some claw marks in the fabric grilles, down near the logo plates, but they’re relatively ancient as Angus has come to understand a bit about what may and may not be used as a scratching post. When music is playing he stares at the black rectangles. Excessive volume seems to have the same effect on his ears as a strong wind, they drop like bent fighters.

The only living thing that looks more pissed off than a cat with its ears flattened is Lou Reed.

Certain instruments and pitches induce Angus ear reactions. A couple of the pet’s sound peeves include the guitar solo near the fade of ‘Stray Cat Blues’ and Roger’s scream in ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ (although this may just be the element of surprise despite repeated listenings). The Replacements are cool with the cat. As is Squeeze. And, if cradled comfortably, Angus will slow dance to ‘Incident on 57th Street,’ at least until Spanish Johnny decides to go and sit out on the fire escape.

Now, as the Boss sang in 1978, everybody’s got their secrets. Walk-in closets or IKEA wardrobes rife with skeletons; virtual vertical mass graves of gone but not forgotten trespasses, embarrassments and venial sins, some so fresh they’re still smarting. And down in the corner under the ashes of your first cigarette is that compilation of songs, those guilty pleasures that are best listened to without snickering friends or appalled family members present. But if you really like a song, there must be some merit to it, how bad can it be? But who’s to judge with steely-eyed impartiality?

When your wife travels frequently you must be mindful of what you get up to when you’re at loose ends. RDS, Quebec’s French-language TSN, is a welcome distraction and a thrifty buy to boot: all 82 Montreal regular season hockey games for less than five bucks a month. Twelve-packs of amber ale and shots of Bushmills come in handy while watching the Canadiens nurse, then blow, one-goal leads.

Siren goes, game’s over and the screen’s blank; you’re standing there looking down at the tabby cat. The cat looks back, bored, yawning, mildly curious about the next activity… A half-baked idea begins to germinate, gestate, gesticulate and then gyrate – or maybe the great room is just spinning like a CD. So…

Eleven (because Rob seems fixated on the number 10 – which is brought to you by the letter T) guilty pleasures critiqued by a cat:

Angus listens to big, dumb rawk!

Def Leppard: “Animal”. The 1910 Fruitgum Company meets Free? Same girl-as-prey lyrical turf as Free’s ‘The Hunter’ but somewhat less meat-headed and with more hooks than an abattoir.

Angus ear reaction: <> Both flattened, too much multi-tracked noise to process.

Billy Squier: “My Kinda Lover”. At its basest, rock ‘n’ roll’s about doing it without actually coming right out and saying it. Kinda graphic, but not crude and you can, er, dance to it.
Angus ear reaction: ^^ All up, nothing offensive here.

Cinderella: “Shelter Me”. Bad 80s hair and a worse name, but Stonesy. Of its time, but it’s refreshing to be reminded that hypocrites like Jimmy Swaggart eventually get what’s coming to them and the inconvenient truth is that PMRC co-founder Tipper Gore is an uptight fascist in a Democrat’s dress.

Angus ear reaction: ^> Mixed, Tom Kiefer’s voice takes some getting used to.

Journey: “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'” Imagining your significant other with another can lead to madness and tragedy, but when it’s all wrapped up in a slick stadium sheen, well, who’s crying now?

Angus ear reaction: <> Oh no! The experiment’s controls go awry as Angus leaps from the couch and settles in the penthouse of his nearby six-storey cat condo.

Motley Crue: “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)”. Thanks for the memories, now get lost. If the Stones had been ambitious enough to make a triple album sometime between 1973 and 1977 this song or something like it (and Cinderella’s Shelter Me or something like it) might have been buried on side six.

Angus ear reaction: ^^ But the cat frantically bathes himself and understandably so – just look at them.

Bryan Adams: “Diana”. The only song he’s ever sung in which he sounds like he means it. The flip side of the 12″ single was called “Camilla”. Honest.

Angus ear reaction: <> Chunky guitars and too much thumping for the tabby’s tastes.

Angus listens to sensitive, emotional stuff.

Carly Simon: “You’re So Vain”. Big LP covers were so enjoyable to look at. Chuck Berry wishes he’d rhymed ‘Nova Scotia’ with ‘Saratoga’ and ‘gavotte’ with apricot.’

Angus ear reaction: ^> Once you isolate Mick Jagger’s backing vocals, that’s all you hear, donchu?

George Michael: “Waiting for that Day”. The ultimate rueful, post-relationship, wrist-slitter is the Band’s It Makes No Difference, it’s untouchable, but George takes his best shot at a forlorn Jim Cuddy/Blue Rodeo ballad. The segue into “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” slays.

Angus ear reaction: ^^ He still misses Emily the calico who had to be put down a couple months back.

Madonna:  “Crazy for You”. A fine ballad from a forgettable movie which is maybe why it works so well. It neither sounds nor feels like a typical Madonna album track or single (whatever her current incarnation) per se; here’s hoping Alison Moyet takes a run at it some day.

Angus ear reaction: <> Flattened due to some romantic man-on-cat, forehead-to-forehead nuzzling and baby talked endearments.

Jann Arden: “Insensitive”. Field notes from the broken hearted. Beautifully sung by a discarded angel.

Angus ear reaction: ^^

A lullaby, but only because any language beyond “Angus!” and “No! No!” is simply a series of sounds to be ignored.

Genesis: “Throwing It All Away”. Yes, an 80s Phil Collins ballad as Genesis goes pop! Motown-inspired backing vocals behind a lead which manages to convey the anguish and resignation that accompanies a cratering couple’s morning after discussion; the fighting’s over.

Angus ear reaction: ^> The breathy sighs may be a little too reminiscent of the wind on a chilly fall day.

Hair metal, AOR, singer-songwriters, adult contemporary, diluted prog… Well, that was cathartic. The shame and self-loathing in the room are as palpable as the disturbed furballs that hover just over the hardwood when you walk into the kitchen to get another beer. Angus’s stomach is big enough to hold an ashtray but smoking in the house is verboten. You light up on the deck outside, exhale at the moon and then notice that the window was wide open the whole time. And while the cat won’t ever confess, you wonder what will the neighbours think.


Geoff Moore scribbles his thoughts in Calgary, while Angus looks on, unimpressed.  So far, the SPCA has not yet been alerted to the fact of his prolonged exposure to 80s hair metal.

Classic Rock: Corporate Magazines Still Suck, Don’t They?

This month’s contribution from author, music fan, and curmudgeonly pop culture critic Geoff Moore is all about the lost art of music journalism, back when music writers for Rolling Stone, Creem, and Trouser Press served as conduits to the ever-elusive future of rock ‘n’ roll.  And where did that future take the music press, exactly?  Find out here, good people!


A recent trawl through the bargain shelves at the rear of our somewhat local Indigo store turned up a hardcover volume reprising some of the best editorial and graphic content from Creem, America’s defunct rock ‘n’ roll magazine. Boy Howdy! froths again between the covers of a coffee table glossy.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, as Yogi Berra may or may not have said, but the book is a welcome addition to a library which includes two editions of The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, 20 Years of Rolling Stone and various special Rolling Stone publications on artists like the Who, the Stones and Bruce Springsteen. Somewhere amidst lives lived in Montreal, Edmonton and Calgary, the first edition of The Rolling Stone Record Guide (red cover) was foolishly lent, only to be lost. There’s even a book on the shelf about RS and its founder Jann Wenner, Robert Draper’s coolly objective Rolling Stone Magazine: The Uncensored History.

Suffice to say, there was a time when one was as fanatical about the magazine as the records it reviewed. And unlike Creem and another long departed favourite, Trouser Press (which still exists in an abridged form in cyberspace), the self-venerating, former tabloid endures in a slicker, more compact, vanity format as surely as the Muddy Waters and Bob Dylan songs from which it lifted its namesake masthead.

Every single edition printed between 1975 and 1990 was devoured – the John Travolta Tarzan bikini bottom cover issue being the exception, just because, well, ick. Relatively current and authoritative sources of music news, gossip, insight and opinion were not overly prevalent in the pre-digital age and Rolling Stone’s content mattered as much as the music it described, even if the editorial gravitas was at times as laughably puffed up and self-referential as the egos of the stars on its covers. And then, like FM radio, it slid into the slimy corporate slough of the predictable and uninteresting.

Or maybe, one turns 30 and features on rap-metal acts and wacky ensemble sitcoms set mostly in coffee bars no longer fire the imagination. The familiar writers, Dave Marsh, Cameron Crowe, Paul Nelson, Chet Flippo, Kurt Loder, Timothy White, Greil Marcus et al had all moved on to other ventures. So David Fricke and Mikal Gilmore (brother of Gary who was the subject of Norman Mailer’s best book, The Executioner’s Song) aside, a byline on the cover meant something next to nothing to the lapsed, once loyal reader.

We are back together again and have been for a few years. The matchmaker was our niece who raises funds for her school by selling ludicrously discounted magazine subscriptions, a welcome change from chocolate covered almonds and frozen chubs of cookie dough, although one quietly wishes young people were permitted to hawk cigarettes and beer.

The world is an imperfect place; rock ‘n’ roll was supposed to change all that, wasn’t it? Anyway, a familial obligation was met on the dime of traditional media, which has been smoked at a level crossing by a high speed train anybody can ride for free. Good Housekeeping did not appeal even though there eventually comes a time in life when your average mortgaged homeowner would rather emulate Heloise than Keith Richards.

The renewed relationship has had few sparks. Have you ever paid a dollar or two to see a hit film in a repertory theatre months after its first run and then felt ripped off despite the meagre cash outlay? Wayne’s World springs to mind. Four out of every five issues of Rolling Stone are like that too, as one of us strives to remain hip and in the now while the other mutters to the dozing tabby tomcat about the terminal mediocrity of the Montreal Canadiens, RRSP account statements swiped by Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and a retirement strategy that likely involves dropping dead at the office.

Jonas Brothers cover stories are of more interest to our 13-year-old subscription salesperson as opposed to the subscriber. In a recent cover feature a would-be starlet, younger than one’s dental fillings, opined that “men are afraid of powerful vaginas.” Perhaps she was referring to some sort of Tantric/Bond villainess clench. A disengaged reader could not be bothered to find out.

American Idol is a lowest common denominator, a pop culture abomination best left to the hacks at People magazine and Coca-Cola marketers. That Rolling Stone even reports on the show’s developments is one thing. That the magazine’s ingrained snootiness crumbles into slightly edgy PR fawning… There are no words and nor should there be in the pages of Rolling Stone.

‘Gonzo’ journalism, almost always political and one of the iconic foundations of the Rolling Stone’s carefully groomed, iconoclastic reputation, seems have devolved to merely describing any current neocon figure as “batshit crazy.” And that’s fine and probably true, but it’s facile, and worse, devoid of humour. Before he lost his mojo, many, many years before he ventilated his cranium, Hunter S. Thompson was an hysterically funny writer.

Rolling Stone magazine is a survivor and its fifth decade of publication is to be acknowledged as the content is not consistently wretched. We tend to reserve our rock ‘n’ roll affection for what’s been lost, for who’s been left behind as human wreckage, for what stayed the way it was for whatever reason. And so, we must prefer our coffee table with Creem.


Geoff Moore is a writer from Montreal who is now based in Calgary. He likes music, hockey, beer, and chasing kids off of his lawn.

10 Rolling Stones Covers To Surprise and Amaze You

These days, the Stones are known as a seemingly eternal rock ‘n’ roll brand, with a rather straightforward approach that doesn’t appear to take too many chances beyond an established musical template.  Yet, a lot of critics, and even some of the fans, forget that Jagger and Richards are accomplished songwriters, putting out tunes in their heyday that were not only immediate pop hits, but were also as highly interpretable as anything Lennon and McCartney ever put out.

The thing that strikes me most about their work is how prescient it is in terms of stylistic changes to the trajectory of rock music.  In much of their work, they seemed to anticipate the development of blues rock, country-rock, and even post punk well before those ideas developed.

So, here are 10 Rolling Stones covers to surprise and amaze you.  You’ll notice that many of them are as far removed from what you might think as being songs written by Jagger and Richards, who have become less known for their incredible songwriting past, and more for their tenacity as a touring unit.  Yet the fact that acts as disparate as The Sundays, The Feelies, and Ike & Tina could pick and choose tunes from the Jagger/Richards songbook reveals the measurement of the quality of the songs themselves.

As Tears Go By – Marianne Faithfull

In the early days of their career, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were not songwriters.  They had to be bullied into it by their then-manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who had another act he was trying to develop by 1964.  That act was a very young Marianne Faithfull, a virginal daughter of European nobility with a great name and the right look that Oldham knew would pay off.

Her first hit was the Jagger/Richards penned ‘As Tears Go By’ a song that Oldham demanded to evoke ‘high cathedral windows and no sex’ to suit the image of his new act.  Of course, Faithfull would be corrupted by the Stones in other ways, taking Jagger as a lover, and eventually plunging into a heroin habit that would almost claim her life.  But this song does what it sets out to do; be a song of innocence, sung by an angel who is untouched by the evils of the world.

Satisfaction – Otis Redding

The debt the Stones owe R&B is incalculable, building a career on cover versions of Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, and Solomon Burke, among many others.  It must have been quite an honour to in turn be covered by one of the greatest soul singers of his era, and perhaps for all time.  Otis Redding was a giant in soul music, easily crossing over into the rock world by delivering one of its anthems in a sweaty Southern soul package.

Where the original version is powered by Keith Richards’ central riff, here the song is all about Otis’ voice.  And the thrust here is less about the lustful tone of the original, and more about the song as a sermon.  Somehow, Redding makes this into a pleading address to the state of the world.  The art of the cover version is all about tone, about subtlety, and adding dimension to the source material in some way.  Redding covers all the bases here with ease.

Rod Stewart – Street Fighting Man

Between 1969 and 1974, it is possible that Rod Stewart was the greatest rock vocalist on earth.  And he holds back none of his considerable chops here, on the Jagger/Richards 1968 anthem ‘Street Fighting Man’.  Rod put it out on his debut album the following year, and is backed here by future Rolling Stones member Ronnie Wood on slide guitar, Stewart’s writing partner in the Faces.

I think what Stewart brings here is a sense of the pervading tensions of the era, a time when the Paris riots and the riots in Chicago seemed to mark the time that 60s idealism was coming to a head, and that violence was not only to be a possibility, but was rather to be expected.  Half of this cover version adds something of its own melody, the song of someone confronted by a violent world. By the end, Stewart takes up the full thrust of the original melody (with a quick nod to another Stones single ‘We Love You’ as well ), presuming to have become a part of that violence sung about at the top of the song.  Stewart’s version turns the song into a little movie of one man’s reaction to a world gone mad.

Honky Tonk Women – Ike & Tina Turner

Mick Jagger’s androgynous stage appearance was an early stand-out, owing much of his success on his ability to move on stage less like Elvis, and more like Tina.  This was the case from early on, when she and Ike took the band to England to tour in the 60s, with the Stones in tow on the bill.  Jagger watched her in the wings, took mental notes, and was advised by Tina herself.   Later, by the 70s when he’d perfected his stage presence, the Stones would return the favour when Ike & Tina opened for their big stadium shows.

Despite Jagger’s debt to a female role model, a common indictment against the Stones is that of misogyny.  In many of their tunes, women are sexual objects with little dimension.  The intricacies of this are arguable.  But, what is  revealed on this version of the song, with none other than Tina Turner singing lead, is that the song itself lends as much to female empowerment as it may do to the image of the philandering male.  In this tune, Tina is in charge, and the song does nothing but support the idea.

Dead Flowers – Townes Van Zandt

Keith Richards and former Byrd Gram Parsons had become great friends by the end of the 60s and into the 70s.  As such, the country music that Richards had been interested in since he began came alive to him in a whole new way thanks to Parsons.  With his friend’s influence, he was able to write this tune, a bona fide country song, which appeared on the Stones’ Sticky Fingers in 1971, and also covered by Parsons’ band the Flying Burrito Brothers.  It was also covered by Jerry Garcia’s The New Riders of the Purple Sage.

But, my favourite version is this one by country legend Townes Van Zandt, which takes the wasted desolation of the original to new lows, in a profoundly impressive way.  His craggy voice, the brittle acoustic guitar accompaniment, and the whooping sounds of the live crowd, is perfect for the sound of this song, a country song about the darkness and ultimate loneliness of drug addiction.  Unfortunately, this was something that Van Zandt, Parsons, and Richards himself knew quite a lot about.  And only Richards would live to talk about it.

Paint It Black – The Feelies

In Technicolor Swinging 1960s London, I wonder what music fans made of this song, which despite Brian Jones’ sitar, sounds less 1966 London, and more like the 1979 Manchester of Joy Division, or indeed the 1979 New Jersey of the Feelies.  Even though the Feelies play this one pretty close to the original, they certainly bring out the genius forward-thinking that caused Jagger and Richards to write it in the first place.

You can see that the pessimism that lay at the heart of the original fits perfectly into the Feelies milleu, along with the thudding, base rhythm that really drives this one along.   And once again, it proves that the new wave/post-punk era didn’t so much erase the past, but brought out what lay at the heart of rock music of the classic era all along.

The Sundays – Wild Horses

Break-up songs in rock music are many.  But few hit such a vital chord as this song does, written around the time the celebrated relationship between Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull had turned sour, and came to a crashing end.  But, the song itself is bigger than any autobiographical background that lies behind it.  By the 90s, the Sundays version of the song had found a new audience outside of its classic rock home base.

I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog post about the Sundays that  lead singer Harriet Wheeler’s voice is a vital instrument, with all immitators left in the dust when it comes to plaintive-yet-honest vocal delivery.  With this song, she brings fresh-faced optimism to a song that is about heartbreak.  With this song, you get the feeling that even though the narrator is struggling for a lost cause, that she’ll be OK in the end.  As such, The Sundays have turned this song about the tragedy of a dying romance into a hopeful tune somehow.

The Soup Dragons – I’m Free

If the Stones wrote songs which could be construed as pessimistic, than they were equally adept at writing optimistic anthems, too.  And this is certainly one of them, one of their lesser known songs that seemed to fit perfectly into the celebratory subculture of early ’90s dance-rock.

And one of the proponents of that sound was the Soup Dragons, with this being a big club favourite and an anthem to the scene. Perhaps it’s ironic that in a scene where the state of rock music was decidedly away from traditional guitar rock, that one of its most vital club anthems  came from the Stones, who by the 90s were not exactly on the cutting edge.  Yet, their song was, written  twenty-five years before this version was released, and before dance-rock was conceived.

Faraway Eyes – The Handsome Family

The measure of how influential a band is often down to how many different types of musical seedlings they are able to plant with their own body of work.  So far, we’ve seen that many of the songs written by Jagger and Richards added dimension to blues-rock, country, dance-rock, and even indie music and post-punk.  Another branch of the musical spectrum is alt-folk by the end of the 90s and early 2000s.  And one of the most notable bands of this scene is the Handsome Family.

Where the original version of this song is something of a low-rent redneck short-story, the Handsome Family make it into a stark, cinematic excursion in dustbowl-era sepia tones.   The original has the rock ‘n’ roll rebel of Jagger’s smirking, faux-Bakersfield accented hero at its centre.  But in this version, a po-faced and dour outcast on the fringes of society stands in his place.  The Handsome Family take the source, and make it into a tale of Biblical doom. This is a tribute to their ability to repurpose the original song to build a portrait of old, weird America.  It shows the strength of the material, too, that encourages creative interpretation as any great text does.

You Got the Silver – Susan Tedeschi

With all of their rock ‘n’ roll decadence, and drug-addled misadventures both on record and in real life, Jagger and Richards’ firm hand when writing and performing love songs is often forgotten.  And this song – taken from their 1969 Let It Bleed album, and sung by Keith Richards on his first lead vocal on a Stones album –  is one of their best.  One of the reasons, possibly, is by using the images of diamonds, silver, and gold as poets do, but as told from someone in love who can’t really find a way to describe that love.

Blues and roots singer and guitarist Susan Tedeschi takes the original and brings out the crystalline beauty of the song.  Where Richards delivery seems to make the narrator tentative – What is in your eye?  Is that the diamonds from the mine? –  Tedeschi proves that the narrator was right on the money, that once again it is the small things about a person that we love the most.  The result is of course is that this is a love song which is as honest as love itself, and just as difficult to ultimately define.  And Tedeschi preserves this, while bringing clarity at the same time.


For a couple of guys who never intended to be songwriters, it’s clear that they hit a stride important enough to influence a multitude of musical branches.  Even if their reputation for established stadium rock endures more so than their reputation as songwriters, the songs themselves have been proven to be bigger than any narrow ideas surrounding them as a band, or even as individuals.  Once again, art is greater than the artists.


Classic Rock: Got live if you want it!

This month’s post by author, Calgarian, Habs fan and armchair music historian Geoff Moore is all about the way that live music  from Rock God Mount Olympus was once lowered down to the masses; two platters the size of dinner plates robed in all of their cardboard, gatefold glory!  It’s the double-live album, folks.  An artifact of a bygone age.  Let’s take a trip into the deep, dark, circular, crackly-pop past…


The single format seems to have spun back into fashion. Downloadable solitary songs and back catalogue tracks ripe for cherry picking compressed to ooze through earbuds have driven down sales of the tactile CD format (which slew vinyl) so much so that chain music stores, the few still standing amid the smoking ruin of the recording industry, now devote their premium floor space to games, ersatz merchandise and DVDs.

But there’s no rush to be had browsing Kurt Cobain figurines or Diff’rent Strokes Season 1 – 2 sets for everyday people of a certain demographic who are already smothering inside a post-recycled fibre Lululemon bag of ageism. It’s an unsettling epiphany to realize the market has passed you by.

So let’s venture out into the wind-scoured badlands and dig some dinosaur fossils. Dust off some extinct 70s major label marketing leviathans, an armful of those double live gatefold LPs that dropped into record racks like the Acme anvil that regularly accordionized the spine of a certain biped coyote.

Some bands were just that much more superior on stage – we tip our hats to seminal single live albums by the J. Geils Band, Ramones, Cheap Trick and Bob Marley, who also released the brilliant Babylon by Bus(1978) just three years later.

Artists at their peak dropped a souvenir document on their fans with appropriate gravitas (including a weighty triple set from an ex-Beatle with a chip on his shoulder, maybe) to buy themselves a little breathing room before going back into the studio to wax their next, hotly anticipated, masterpiece.

The watershed, of course, was 1976. But before the flood generated by Frampton Comes Alive! there was Before the Flood (1974) which documented Bob Dylan’s electrifying 1973 reunion with the Band – who had already released a New Orleans New Year’s Eve show as Rock of Ages (1972). These two albums, along with Van Morrison’s It’s Too Late to Stop Now (1973) and Neil Young’s Live Rust (1979), still sound as immediate the fragments of the very evenings they preserved.

Frampton Comes Alive! is the double live equivalent of boxer and grill shill George Foreman, who names his sons George, it begat a bandwagon train of lesser selling but arguably better sets from other rockers seeking a wider audience: Dave Mason’s Certified Live (1976), Bob Seger’s Live Bullet (1976) and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s One More from the Road (1976), southern scion to the Allmans’ edited and abridged landmark At Fillmore East (1971).

The weary brave gracing the cover of ‘Surf’s Up’ is reborn on the cover of The Beach Boys in Concert (1973), exposing his torso and upturned face to the warmth of the sun, his arms outstretched. And rightly so. While Brian is absent (likely in his sandbox hoovering acid faster than Oswald can synthesize it) and ‘Holland,’ the LP the tour was promoting, was no ‘Pet Sounds,’ … In Concert is probably the last relevant Beach Boys album.

They were a fully functioning American band with fresh, solid material to perform. And so was Grand Funk Railroad two years later when the Flint, Michigan group was Caught in the Act (1975) at their absolute peak of popularity. Live Bootleg (1978) captures Aerosmith at the highest point of their career, just as the train wreck kept a-rollin’. Supposedly undoctored, raw Bootleg may have been a barroom chin chuck to Kiss Alive (1975) which most certainly is not, right down to the cheesy, posed cover portrait.

Kiss Alive II (1977) could only have been conceived by Casablanca’s marketing department, three sides of ‘live’ and a side order of new studio tracks. ‘Still Dangerous’ is currently being trumpeted at Thin as ‘the real’ Live and Dangerous (1978), touting additional tracks, no overdubs and no post-production, a stark contrast to its original beloved incarnation.

The 70s cannot be revisited without acknowledging a penchant for wretched excess during the decade. ‘From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee’ for releasing a 12:46 version of ‘Moby Dick’ and a ‘Dazed and Confused’ that sure lives up to its title at 26:52. There’s not enough hashish left on the planet to re-absorb Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same (1976), although the soundtrack’s packaging was exquisite. It seemed dated upon release though, perhaps because the live footage was from 1973 and the band had moved on – Physical Graffiti and Presence were already in record stores. But one documentary soundtrack always worth revisiting is Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen (1971).

Other scree reached us from Olympus. Love You Live (1977) apparently was a Plan B olio for which Andy Warhol phoned in the cover art. The Stones had planned to release four sides from five nights (according to speculation and rumour at the time) at Toronto’s El Mocambo Tavern, but Jagger’s strategy was disrupted by the Mounties and Mrs. Trudeau who were just doing their jobs. Se we settled for side three, damn them!

Bowie sandwiched his plastic soul and coke-addled Nosferatu phases between David Live(1974) and Stage (1978). The Doors are like your high school wardrobe, something you soon grow out of. Absolutely Live (1970) has aged about as well as the Lizard King himself, it’s just sort of stuck in the tub.

The double live died (Sounds like a discarded Ian Fleming title, eh?) as the 80s progressed (although the Stones and the Who never got the memo). Twenty-five years ago when digital technology was in its infancy a single audio compact disc was an expensive enough consumer proposition and record marketers began to realize that lightning rarely strikes twice.

The exception being (and there always is one) Springsteen’s mammoth Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live 1975-1985 which came down on record store racks like Sunday morning or like that skit-squashing animated foot in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

The double live set was sort of a place marker in an artist’s career, a consolidation of achievement to that point in time. For a low charting or regional act, the double live album served up a buffet of their best for the uninitiated and unconverted.


Geoff Moore is a novelist and ad man,  living and working in Calgary. I get the feeling he misses the wonderment of gatefold packaging…

Rock Radio: Let the Airwaves Flow

This month’s guest post from Calgarian, Montreal Canadiens nut, and rock music fan Geoff Moore explores the storied history and dubious future of modern rock radio …


A pub lunch last week, a particularly insipid commercial FM radio station playing over the sound system, a woman’s voice sounding like a smile promising all the hits from yesterday and today (not to be confused with the Capitol Beatles release YESTERDAY & TODAY).And then Michel Pagliaro’s gleaming 1971 gem, ‘Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy,’ chimes through the noisy clutter of ad jingles, wretched ABBA retreads and sundry vapid and perky station breaks.

For a moment though, Chilliwack, A Foot in Coldwater, Andy Kim, Badfinger, Eddie Kendricks, Stevie Wonder, B.W. Stevenson, Creedence Clearwater Revival and all that was glorious about a transistor radio crackling out an AM broadcast back in the early seventies swamps diners in the tired joint like a wave. It wasn’t all great by any means. Payola aside, sometimes there’s no accounting for what hits the charts and sticks.

Memo to Henry Gross: Your dog Shannon is still dead. Goodbye, Terry Jacks. You had your time in the sun. It’s hard to die, but take your best shot. And you, Michael, with the nickel? Ram it.

Top 40 radio was training for the big show, FM – a strange, new world of stereo, of songs exceeding three minutes in length and a whole other slate of recording artists. “No static at all,” reiterated Becker and Fagen. Graduating to FM radio was some kind of rock ‘n’ roll bar mitzvah: “Today, I am a… serious music fan.” ‘Us and Them’ and soft drugs. But that was then. AM broadcasts in stereo now and FM has become what it was never meant to be: Top 40.

Another pub lunch last week, the day after the last one and the same particularly insipid commercial FM radio station is playing over the sound system. And Pag’s ‘Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy’ re-bops through the the bookshelf speakers mounted on the ceiling, about three minutes later than the day before. Heavy rotation for a 38-year-old A side. This same station plays either the Guess Who or a Burton Cummings solo track between 12:20 and 12:40 – guaranteed as the station has been newly renamed after a computer spreadsheet program (or maybe a t-shirt size?).

If memory serves, when this particular station was first launched in Calgary it was called The Breeze (definitely not a Lynyrd Skynyrd reference) and promised the Starbucks set the “softer sides of Phil Collins, Eric Clapton and Sting.” Zzz. The B.B.M. ratings measured something next to nothing.

The local “classic rock,” okay, middle-aged white guys’ station’s music library seems comprised exclusively of greatest hits compilations. Mysteriously, these collections apparently consist of just three songs, so ‘Forty Licks’ is actually ‘Three Licks.’ The Beatles’ double ‘blue’ album is actually an EP. The contemporary rock station, still known by its call letters (rare these days), is unlistenable, mired in the post-grunge sludge of Staind and Puddle of Mudd and other bands who can’t spell too gud.

Criticizing commercial rock radio is as easy as shooting KISS in a barrel. And, yes, these are the cranky complaints of a Methuselah in dog years, but you cannot imagine an artist like Van Morrison, a man seemingly mystically obsessed with the medium (‘Wavelength‘ and countless coda callouts – “Turn it up! A little bit higher…”), being inspired by a single one of your local commercial FM stations these days.

Nor even, God bless us all, a one hit wonder like Autograph (‘Turn Up the Radio’). And songs of praise to disc jockeys like the jubilant ‘Saint Jake’ by the Del-Lords or the Kinks’ concerned ‘Around the Dial’ speak to another time, one when Lou Reed could write: “Then one fine mornin’ she puts on a New York station/She don’t believe what she heard at all/She started dancin’ to that fine fine music/You know her life was saved by rock ‘n’ roll.”

Something happened to rock radio sometime between the disintegration of Led Zeppelin and the advent of Nickelback and it sure as hell wasn’t punk (two Clash songs and that Green Day ballad used in the Seinfeld finale to programmers). Corporate chain ownership, the rise and fall of A.O.R. into even more rigid and fragmented formats, staff cuts, boss jocks more concerned with their wacky on-air personae patter rather than the platters that matter? All of the above and whatever else besides.

All traditional media are hurting in this digital age which provides consumers a myriad of narrowcast, almost individually tailored, alternatives. Yet FM radio remains a proven and economical buy for advertisers (its raison d’etre after all). Improving its content by simply literally and figuratively turning the record over, as in the old days, might a good way to re-engage music fans and maybe, just maybe, create some new ones.


Geoff Moore is a writer and advertising guy who lives in Calgary. He can’t appreciate ABBA, even ironically…

Rock Music and Pop Culture: What’s Puzzling You?

Has rock music become more widely accepted as culturally significant?  Or, has it been relegated to a series of cultural footnotes? Guest writer Geoff Moore muses on the more recent, seemingly prominent position that rock music and rock history has taken in the annals of popular culture: the nationally syndicated newspaper crossword puzzle clue…


Sure signs that the boomer generation is almost grown: Life magazine celebrated rock ‘n’ roll’s 40th and 50th anniversaries with special issues. Media doesn’t get much more mainstream than the once venerable and now defunct picture magazine. And the music itself, once in the vanguard of youth culture, has been relegated to a sub-genre by an industry scrabbling to rebuild its shattered business model in the digital age (Alas, all of the airplane glue was sniffed years ago). Rock ‘n’ roll is mere crossword puzzle clue fodder these days.

And that’s all right now, Mama. Especially if your Latin is rusty, your atlas out of date, your periodic table is for monthly poker games and your exposure to opera is limited to Bugs Bunny and the Marx Brothers. Because you need an ANKA when you’re ASEA on an ocean of ORR, ORE, OTT, ORTS, OKRA, OLIO and OLEO. Crossword puzzles are elegant and esoteric; patterned grids demanding to be filled in through knowledge, recall, intuition and blind guesswork. And cheating.

They can be eerily synchronous. If the grid teaches you a new proper noun, that person, place or thing will be an item in the newspaper the next day or mentioned in the novel you’re reading. The music clue is playing on the radio. Crosswords are as addictive as drugs and alcohol and almost as much fun.

‘One of two cars besides a Cadillac named in Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac'” was 5 down on the New York Times puzzle a few Saturdays ago. Six letters. Like asking a metallurgist about alloys or a doctor about symptoms. Oh, it was the beginning of a fine, fine day.

The most popular rock group in the crossword world is the Electric Light Orchestra, ELO. On a Monday or Tuesday the clue might read ‘”Evil Woman” grp.’ or ‘”Don’t Bring Me Down” grp.’ As the week progresses and the Times puzzle becomes more difficult with each new day, those same three letters may be elicited with something a little trickier to those who don’t read liner notes: ‘Bev Bevan’s band.’

REM could easily take the number two spot, unfortunately they answer to both ‘Murmur group’ and ‘_ sleep’ thereby halving their appearances. The Who are infrequent guests in the crossword perhaps because of the sequence or combination of letters in their handle – ironic as Pete Townshend took years to piece together his sci-fi rock opera about a grid. Proggie dinosaurs ELP and Yes apparently, and mercifully, have no fans among puzzle makers.

The Rolling Stones’ biggest songs are ‘_ Is On My Side,’ ‘Time _ Side’ and ‘Time Is On My _.’ Yet ANGIE’s (‘1973 no. 1’) kisses may still taste sweet after so much time has passed so many times. ‘Let It _’ always results in the simple, obvious and disappointing BE. ‘Let It _’ BLEED, RAIN, ROCK or SNOW sometime, please and thank you. And for Neil, rather than the too clever punning of ‘”Old Man” singer,’ how about ‘”F*!#in’ Up” singer’ just once? Just for laughs.

‘One-named singer.’ Sometimes it’s SADE or even BONO, but usually the answer is CHER. Though she had a memorable stint has the lead vocalist of Black Rose (Where have you gone, Les Dudek?), it’s really only the daily crossword puzzle that guarantees her immortality. Yoko Ono will not be remembered for her art or her deft way with a lyric. But she will always plug the gap in ‘John _ Lennon’ when WINSTON doesn’t fit.

And ONO is not to be confused with ‘Musician Brian’ ENO who is also the ‘Creator of the “Microsoft sound” played when Windows 95 starts.’ Encountering the common ‘Rocker John’ clue your mind always scrolls through surnames before concluding it’s ELTON. ‘Australian rock group’ is almost always ACDC unless it’s INXS, but never Mental As Anything.

And what of Ike Turner who may or may not be the father of rock ‘n’ roll? With the publication of ITINA (‘1986 Turner autobiography’) we learned that he wasn’t just a bad dude in the good sense, but a bad man of the sort whose actions seem to smear an entire gender. The man’s just not PC in these hyper-sensitive times. The three letter answer to ‘_ Turner’ is always NAT, a more significant, more complex and an even more difficult figure in American social history but distanced from us by centuries. When IKE is the answer, you know that for sure, the clue references the 34th President of the United States whose WWII command was, of course, the ETO.

Geoff ‘Bond actor Roger’ is relieved that ‘”Titanic” diva’ and her husband and Quebecor Inc. are not a component of the new ‘Mtl. team informally,’ ownership group. The dilemma of whether or not to buy all of her CDs or hang himself has been deferred indefinitely.

Geoff Moore is a writer based in Calgary, Alberta.