Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where The Hell Does Time Go Anyway?

Do you ever feel that 25 (hell, 30...THIRTY????!!!) years ago was just like yesterday? I've been feeling that a lot lately. It leaves me in a bit of a daze really, mostly unwilling to accept the reality of it.

A while ago I decided that I need to get rid of "stuff". One of the big jobs was to get all my CDs onto my laptop. I'm old enough that I bought a record on vinyl, then on tape, then on CD and some even on MP3 (some artists made a lot of money out of me. Then again, it's more likely the evil record companies made the money...).

Popular music has always mostly sucked and now it's even worse than ever. Do I want to hear another 14 year old whinging about something pointless? Nope. Last night I was moaning about how shitty it was to get "older" but how extremely lucky I feel I was to have lived through the frenzy and excitement of punk and new wave. Sure, there were some crap bands back then too (lots even) but there's very little of that freshness and pure exhilaration nowadays with all the constructed stars and their shit music for the masses. Of course there are some great bands now too...it's not all negative.

Ripping my CDs got me thinking about music and how much fun I had. Toronto was a fantastic place to be to experience alternative music in the late 70s/early 80s, mostly thanks to radio like CFNY...thank god for Dave Marsden-led CFNY where the DJs played whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted - who doesn't remember the punk mixed with classical? Who doesn't remember the seriously weird Toast by the Streetband (and a baby-faced Paul Young)? When CFNY started changing around 1983, CKLN and CBC late night (Neon, Brave New Waves) were my saviours. I have my sister to thank for turning me on to CFNY. Back when they broadcast out of a tiny house in Brampton (we even went all the way up there a few times to hang out).

I was pretty much an outsider growing up in Scarborough (AKA Scarberia) - most of the kids in my highschool were firmly into 70s bands like Rush, Triumph, Styx (shudder), Supertramp etc. But my sister and her friends were cool and started getting into the Sex Pistols and CFNY. Although I went to a few shows with her, I was mostly on my own, making the long and boring trip from Scarborough to downtown for concerts and weekly visits to the Record Peddlar to get the latest issues of NME, Melody Maker and other newspapers from the UK that cost the earth for me, but I devoured them from cover to cover. I paid for them by babysitting kids I hated. How's that for dedication? Then there was the cost of imported records. Did I mentioned how much I hated the kids? It was worth it though...Anyway, my sister drifted off to other things but later on my cousin and best friend became my partner in fun, and did we ever have fun. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was privileged to see some incredible concerts and meet a lot of bands. I hardly ever go to a concert anymore but by and in 1981 (a particular awesome year for concerts) I was probably seeing two shows a week at the Concert Hall, Larry's Hideaway, the Edge (Egertons), Ryerson Theatre etc. Didn't matter that I was underage! I used to have a scrapbook with all my tickets, backstage passes, photos, news clippings etc. but I "lost" that in a move 7 years ago. It truly gutted me to lose that collection, it was so special to me ( I get teary just thinking of it!). It also helped me to remember my experiences. I was thinking I should probably write some of my memories down before they fade into the past so why not share with others and hope they share their experiences back. And if no one reads this at least I've written it all down. There's probably no point in doing this chronologically, I might as well just post about whatever I remember at the time or based on whatever music I pull out.

I loved music early on, I remember being glued to the radio and listening to stuff like Sweet, the Babys, Al Stewart, T.Rex, Led Zeppelin (oooh shivers!) on some tinny, shitty AM radio.

Despite the lack of hi fidelity the airwaves still crackled with excitement for me. But the end of the 70s was starting to get pretty bleak music-wise (though I did get sucked into liking the odd disco song).

When I started listening to CFNY in 1978 I felt like I was being shaken from some sort of stupor...the stuff coming in over the airwaves was absolutely electric.

God, how I loved the Buzzcocks! So much amazing music pouring out of the radio...Ultravox! - the version fronted John Foxx - Ha! Ha! Ha! hasn't left my all time top 10 list since it came out. Magazine, Gang of Four, Ian Dury, Joy Division, Brian Eno, Tubeway Army, the Cure (pre Lovecats only for me), XTC, Squeeze, the Slits, the Stranglers (no one does crunchy, growling bass like J J Burnel), Sparks...the list is endless.

Even when I was younger, I always had an extreme bias towards bands from the UK but to be fair there were some great "local" bands. I still love Tired of Waking Up Tired by my favourite local band, the Diodes, but there was also Drastic Measures, Nash the Slash and ummm...yeah there must have been more. Ok, I hated most local bands.

1979 was the start of a lifelong love affair with U2, though nothing beats the earlier days. Was lucky to see them at Ryerson Theatre in 1981 and Massey Hall. Much preferred those shows to the stadiums.

However, I think the honour of the first band post needs to go to Japan, my most favourite band in the late 70s. Party at the Domino Club. Got to meet the band. Got to meet Mick Karn at the Royal York Hotel. Two shows at the Ryerson Theatre, November 1979. Huge crush on Richard Barbieri.

And the song that started it all...


  1. Woo - welcome to blogland, Sonja.
    I loved the Cure, went to see them in the RDS in Dublin. Love Cats came on the radio when me and Fin(partner) were in a café the other day and we sang it to our baby daughter, word perfect! After about 25 (?) years. Some stuff just stays with you, right?
    And I agree about new, over-produced singers/bands - there is nothing raw or interesting about any of them.
    Good luck with the blogging!
    Nuala x

  2. Thanx for starting this Sons! I love reading it and remembering all the fun times :)

  3. Now you can add Malcolm Maclaren RIP

  4. Thanks Nuala. This writing stuff is hard - you have my total respect!

    And Sweet...it is a shame about MM. Not my favourite person on the planet but you can't deny that he deserves a lot of respect for his part in the "revolution"

    Can't believe we're seeing the Buzzcocks in May. That's insane lol. Hope they don't come out with canes and wheelchairs ;)

    I first saw them just over 30 years ago (September 1979) at the Music Hall.

  5. So, why did you pass off the Echo & Bunnymen full orchestra?

    I couldn't see them then... was out of the country. Cannot wait to see them this Friday!

  6. This Friday??? Didn't even know they were playing :S

  7. Just a warning - I saw Buzzcocks at this street fair here in Los Angeles called Sunset Junction I think three years ago (originally from Waterloo here, CFNY-raised new wave dork for sure) and I expected some anorexic, deadly, homo-night creatures. Instead I got what looked like stocky, beermonster brick layers with white hair!! Like Curly from Three Stooges on lead vocals! Hey at least David Sylvian (recent Wire cover) is going for the lesbian Merlin look! Old punks gotta stay CREATIVE!

  8. OMG thanks for the early morning laugh!

  9. Interesting stuff here - love the inspiration for sure. I remember me & best friend Alex went to see Joe Jackson at Seneca College Fieldhouse when I'm The Man had just come out. What a cool show!! Somewhere I lost that ticket stub, and I can't find ANY record of that show whatsoever on the net.....anyone else go!??
    Check my blog out as well...lots o' 80 there! http://beaverbootsinc.blogspot.com/

  10. I've been to your blog Smithers! You linked to a download for a Waterboys concert at the El Mo that was on Tuesday Night Live...thanks for that :)

    Personally, I wasn't a Joe Jackson fan but I know he was really popular here. I wish there was a place online that listed concerts in the Toronto area. I've got copies of my cousin's ticket stubs but they only start around 1982 and aren't complete. Would be a great resource.

  11. WOW. Thanks for that CHIC/CFNY Picture, I actually worked at CHIC, and was Dave MArsden's On AIr Operations Guy. Thanks for the memories.