Wednesday, October 27, 2010


 Your humble author and Chris Murphy of Sloan
 Murphy interrupting my big speech
 Chris and Jay Ferguson with Underwhelmed producer Terry Pulliam
 Jay and MC/Hosr Mike Campbell
 Campbell grills me on why Nickelback didn't make the Top 100
Chris tries to claim Underwhelmed should have finished #6

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Not many bands can claim as fierce a fan loyalty as Sloan, and that's especially true in the band's hometown of Halifax. Even though the group members have lived in Toronto for more than a decade now, they will always be the city's pride and joy, and the love is returned by the band. Local shows are always a big deal, and it was especially fortunate the group would be hitting Halifax this year for the annual Halifax Pop Explosion. Fortunate for the Top 100 Canadian Singles, too. We were able to schedule our Halifax book launch inbetween a couple of Sloan shows, and convince some of the group to stop on by.

Three years ago, when the book was launched in this city, Eric's Trip, one of the original Pop Explosion groups of the city, played the book launch for the Top 100 Canadian Albums. Contemporaries and best pals of Sloan, it remains one of my great memories of that time. So the chance to grab Sloan was too much to pass up. Luckily, Chris Murphy and Jay Ferguson happily agreed, and Chris emailed to say they would have something special lined up for the show, too.

The Pop Explosion was already well underway when I rolled into town Thursday, and my first action was to make sure I saw Sloan's set that night. Held at The Paragon, the group had decided to perform their classic album Twice Removed in its entirety, something they had only done once before, at last summer's Sappyfest in Sackville, N.B. Now, Twice Removed is the favourite of most critics and fans, and finished at #14 in the poll for The Top 100 Canadian Albums. I can report it was a fabulous gig, the songs well-rehearsed, and it reminded me of just how exciting Sloan was when they first hit the scene. The packed house agreed.

Onto Friday, Oct. 22nd, and launch day. The event was held at The Carleton Restaurant, and MC'd by co-owner and pal Mike Campbell. Now, you'll remember Mike from his MuchMusic, Mike and Mike days. Now he's the face of the most enjoyable performance and dining spot in the city, which features great local, national and international performers. It's a great spot for drinks, dinner and memorable music. If somebody is playing there, you can pretty much be assured you're going to enjoy them. Mike hit the stage first with an introduction, then threw a bunch of questions at me about the book. But soon, we were rudely interrupted by a stage invasion, in the form of one Chris Murphy, who felt Mike was giving me too many easy questions. He wanted to know more dirt, and find out why Sloan hadn't finished higher. I reminded him three singles in the Top 100 of all time in this country is pretty darn good for this survey, and finally he relinquished the stage.

Then it was time for what the packed house was expecting. Armed with acoustic guitars, and their trusty touring keyboard pal Greg, Chris and Jay came up for a mini-set. They opened with Underwhelmed, and followed that with Coax Me, two of the three Sloan hits in the Singles book. Then came the surprise I'd been promised. The guys had worked up a cover of another of the hits from the book, and we were treated to an excellent take on Martha and the Muffins' classic Echo Beach. Originally scheduled to just do the three songs, it was such a hit the mini-band had to return for another, choosing The Other Man.  Below you'll see pictures of Mike Campbell introducing things, a very blurry Dale Murray of Cuff The Duke and Christina Martin, two of my favourite Haligonian performers, Mike grilling me on why his favourite singles aren't in the book, Chris and Jay, and finally an extremely rare shot of Stephen Cooke of the Chronicle-Herald actually drinking a beer he paid for himself.

Many thanks go to Mini-Sloan for their participation, and for making the evening so memorable. Thanks as well to Mike, Mike, Steph, and everbody at The Carleton, for making me feel like it's my home away from home, and for being the perfect venue for the launch, and for any evening. Thanks as well to the many friends and family there, including some of the folks instrumental in Sloan's career over the years. There were too many familiar faces to single out in this writing, but it was a joy to see them all.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gord, Julie, Chris and Dave

There was a rare convergence of artists from the Top 100 Canadian Singles and Top 100 Canadian Albums books on Monday night, Oct. 19th, and right in my hometown.  Fredericton saw the latest stop on Canadian tour of Gord Downie and the Country of Miracles, at The Playhouse.  Your author was lucky enough to be on hand, and to be able to chat with some of the principals after the event.

First off, Downie and his band put on a wonderful show.  Those of you familiar with his work with The Tragically Hip know he is a unique front man, who likes to bring something new to the stage with each tour.  On his own, Downie is able to let a lot more of his creativity come forth.  Playing soft-seat halls instead of the Hip's usual hockey rinks, he's a much more happy-go-lucky, chatty, and spontaneous performer.

On this tour, Downie trots out selections from his three solo albums, plus a cover of a rarely-heard Dylan song, Going Going Gone from Planet Waves.  There's not a Hip hit to be heard.  Nobody in this packed theatre seemed to mind.  Just his presence was enough, as Downie's entrance brought the first standing ovation of the night.  Then we were greeted not with music, but a slice of his poetry, a totally unexpected start to a rock show, and a welcome and successful one.  While the rest of his Country of Miracles colleagues sauntered on and started playing, Downie moved to an on-stage overhead projector, and placed a large cut-out of a moon on the screen, which filled the back wall of the stage.  Throughout the show, he'd draw, make water-oil-and-dye sculptures, and generally give us a whole new wall of images to go along with the show.  Leave it to Downie to bring a multi-media event, another example of his desire to add the artistic to his rock as much as possible.

On stage was Downie's most constant companion in his solo ventures, singer and guitarist/bassist/drummer Julie Doiron, who first met Downie back in the '90's when her band Eric's Trip toured with the Hip.  Since then he's name-checked the group's Love, Tara album in a Hip tune, and signed up Julie to record and tour.  On stage, the normally quiet Doiron gets to live out her rockin' fantasies, dancing, pounding and generally being electric, even playing Downie's love interest in one tune, which features the two in a full duet, complete with choreography.  The D and D show is one of the highlights of the night.

Anyway, I liked the show.  I wanted to head backstage after, mostly to say hi to Julie, who is an old friend, as we're both NB'ers.  Eric's Trip even played the book launch for the Top 100 Canadian Albums three years ago in Halifax.  Her manager, Peter Rowan, is another old pal, a Fredericton boy who has been instrumental in the careers of the Trip, Julie, Sloan, and a founder of the Halifax Pop Explosion as well as other cool Canadian Indie scene things.  He was there, and back stage we went.

Chatting with Julie went well as always, and then Downie dropped into the Green Room.  I've interviewed him before, but not met in person, and I was glad to do so.  He's a generous, funny man, open for a music talk or whatever, curious, and ..well..this was the good part...  he took a genuine interest in The Top 100 Singles Book.  In fact, it was hard to get it back from him.  It was my copy, and I wanted to get him to sign it.  I do that with the musicians in the book.  And then, surprise, it was Downie who pointed out another musician from the book was there.  Dave Clark, who is drumming with the Country of Miracles, is also represented..  He's an original Rheostatic, and was still in the group when they recorded Claire, which is at #42 in the survey, and Dave quickly found his picture.  Plus, Julie is in the book, as there's a picture of Eric's Trip performing at the Halifax launch for the albums book, and they were in that one, Love, Tara getting into the Top 100 Albums.  And I almost forgot that Christ Thompson, the Trip guitarist, was with us too, coming along with Rowan and myself and Singles juror Meghan Scott (Tuck and Roll Productions) to the after-show get-together.  So, I came away with four signatures, and even better, some pretty cool reaction from Gord Downie and Dave Clark, both of them positive about the new book.  I like it when the musicians are happy.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Whew! Fredericton Launch Over...

You'd think after book launch events across the country, dozens of interviews, several speeches, and articles and appearances in broadcast and print numbering in the hundreds, I'd be getting pretty used to talking in public about The Top 100 Canadian Singles. However, there was something different about Friday night's event in Fredericton. It is, after all, my hometown. For some reason I was more nervous about this book launch than any of the others. I guess it was because I knew almost everyone there, or at least figured I should, and it was up to me to entertain my friends and family. Perhaps I knew if I didn't keep them satisfied on a Friday night, I'd be forever thinking about that each time I saw them. Whatever the reason, I had butterflies going in.

The book launch was held at Gallery Connexion, which is the city's artist-operated gallery. It's a fine new location, with a performance space included in the design, and there I was, performing for the folks. A vicious rain and windstorm kept lots of people home, some of whom lost power through the day. But it was still a fine turnout, 50-ish someone said, but I was too nervous to notice. It just seemed crowded, with everyone staring at me.

Luckily, I had someone to help, and to equally entertain. Colleen Kitts was the MC/Inquisitor for the event. The well-known N.B. broadcaster and writer brings her own considerable charm and wit to each event, and had me behind the eight ball from the start. She knows me better than anyone else in the world, and as she happily pointed out, is one of the few who can claim to have beaten me at a music trivia question. In truth, there are many others, but they are generally from the music and history worlds, and Colleen did it on sheer love of a song. She has never let me forget it, and took the opportunity to lord it over me to the crowd. To a person, they enjoyed this immensely. But I took it in good stride, I feel. After that, it was a half-hour barrage of questions, insightful comments, and a couple more cheap shots, from me. Everyone said they loved it, and a couple of veteran book event-goers called it the best book launch they'd ever been to. We try to please, here at the Top 100 Canadian Singles. I saved up a couple of good pieces of gossip about famous Canadian pop stars for the occasion.

Hats off to the Gallery staff, notably Maggie Estey and Meredith Snider, and all the Goose Lane Editions people, who suffered through the horrible 45 second walk from the office to the gallery. Well, it was raining. This seems a good time to pay written tribute to Kent Fackenthall, who did get a big shout-out from me at the event, but hopefully some others will read this as well. Kent is the designer of both The Top 100 Canadian Albums and The Top 100 Canadian Singles. His terrific layout and graphics make these special books. I can take no credit for the beauty of these books, and Kent deserves so much of it. While the list and the debate grabs some interest, what really sells the books is the incredible look of them. They are truly visual feasts, and that's the main reason they stay in permanant places on people's coffee tables. Another round of applause for Kent.

Also in the house was Barry Norris, who has been the editor on both books. He knows his music and history, which is a plus right there, but even better, he knows how to keep the grammar and language perfect, while retaining this writer's voice. There is nothing a writer wants more, I believe, than to still recognize his own words on the page, after the editing suggestions. Barry has made the process, which is supposed to be difficult, into one of the most pleasurable jobs in the creation of the books.

And more kudos to everyone at Goose Lane, who once again have succeeded in presenting a top quality package to music fans across Canada, a hard-cover coffee table exploration of Canadian popular music, treated with utmost respect as an equal partner in Canadian art, something no other publisher has done in this country.

Now, onward to Halifax, Friday Oct. 22, 5 PM at the Carleton. Hope to see many of you there.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tooting One's Own

Hi:  P.R. guru Sue McCallum of The Next Level PR, has been keeping track of the reviews and postings about The Top 100 Canadian Singles from the past couple of weeks.  While we haven't collected all of them, and there are a whole bunch of radio and tv interviews that haven't been posted online, and no doubt some we just haven't heard about, this has a few of the highlights.  I haven't gone through to separate all the bad ones out, it's just a list, you can as always make up your own mind.  Like the Avril folks have done!  I haven't read most of them, but I particularly liked being in the wrestling one.  I gotta check that out.  Sue thinks it's the most press any Canadian book has received this year, but she's biased because she thinks I am pretty.

Top 100 Canadian Singles – Links to online coverage.,+Composers,+Singers,+Rappers,+Groups/Neil+Young/02mw0Ku5Dl9pl/1  -  Canada AM,+Geography/Countries/Canada/0aiCfWxfhVggI/1

Monday, October 11, 2010


I'm a little behind on the blogging, it's been a rush of airports and activities, home, kids, cats, and back to work the past few days. So let's get caught up, first in Winnipeg. It was the by-now usual flurry of interviews during my two days there, offset by dinner and entertainment by some fine friends who I rarely get to see. A smaller-than-normal crowd turned out at McNally-Robinson book sellers, but that was possibly due to a forced Friday night event, the only day our schedules could match up. Still we had a lively chat and met some interesting and interested folks, Canadian music fans all.

I say "we", because in this case, it was a duo of dueling music minds. I was joined by my good friend John Einarson, one of the country's finest music writers, and the music historian-in-residence for Manitoba. John is the expert on all things Guess Who and Neil Young-related, when it comes to their time in Winnipeg, and has the goods on all the other Manitoba acts as well. That's just the start of it though. His books on Arthur Lee and Love, The Flying Buritto Brothers, Steppenwolf, Buffalo Springfield, and of course his Randy Bachman and Neil Young tomes are considered essential reading everywhere. His most recent one, on Lee and Love, has received praise in Rolling Stone, and even Robert Plant is dropping superlatives about it in interviews. His previous works routinely show up in the Top Music Books of the Year lists in publications such as Mojo and Uncut. To sit with John is always a pleasure, and he supplied a steady stream of interesting and intriguing questions.

And, he made me mad. He knows exactly how to do that. He showed up with some old singles to show the audience, and tease me with. First, there was a rare European picture sleeve single of American Woman, which I immediately wanted. John says Burton Cummings wants one too, so I had to get in line. Then he flipped to Opportunity by The Mandela, which featured Dominic Troiano among its members. That song finished very high in the Top 100 Singles poll, for good reason, it's a neglected classic.

After that it was off to the Fort Geary Hotel for dinner with old Fredericton friends Graham and Vicki Young, an excellent spot, refurbished to its glory days status as one of the country's beautiful railway hotels. Vicki reminded me she used to work for my publisher, Goose Lane Editions, way back in the 80's. Graham reminded me what a dork I was way back in the 80's. Thanks friends!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


It's always a fine time in Calgary.  I find people tend to take their entertainment seriously.  They have favourite restaurants and bars, and pay attention to who has good food and atmosphere.  They seem to go out more, for dinner and drinks.  Anyway, I mention this since my sister lives in Calgary, and when I mentioned book store Pages Kensington was looking for a good place for the launch party for the Top 100 Canadian Singles, she had a club ready.
It was held in Melrose Bar and Grill on Tuesday night, in a good separate party room in the lower section of the restaurant.  It was a good thing the place was big; as it turns out my sister Dorothy is also a good party-planner.  Along with some of my friends, and some people who were part of the Top 100 Canadian Singles project, several DOZEN of her friends showed up. We were getting close to a hundred in there.  Pages sold all but two of the books they brought.  I got hand cramp from signing.
In the house were several of the people who contributed votes as part of the jury, including my long-time friend, author and historian James Duplacey, currently a Calgarian, working for the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.  I should mention J.J. has written almost as many books on sports, travel and special interest as there were people in the club.  No exaggeration there, it was up to sixty awhile ago.  Hockey fans especially have been reading his work for a couple of decades now, as co-author of Total Hockey, and his previous yearly work on the NHL Guide and Record Book.
There was also a special guest, one of the great Canadian musicians, featured in the Top 100 Canadian Singles.  Kelly Jay was the leader and sprakplug for Hamilton's Crowbar.  Their hit Oh What A Feeling made the list at #25.  Always larger than life, Kelly moved to Calgary a few years back, and still enjoys a weekend jam session in town.  He's been working on a memoir for a few years, and I for one would love to hear all of the stories, because every time I see him, he tells me something else amazing. He can namedrop his friends John and Yoko, tell you about the meetings with Pierre Juneau for the birth of CanCon, or about the time he drove a Harley onstage to open the show at Maple Leaf Gardens.  Kelly graciously answered some questions from the crowd, told some jokes, signed books, and repeated his famous line, perhaps my favourite quote in the Top 100 Canadian Singles book:  "I've been playing music in Canada for decades, and I've made hundreds and hundreds of dollars."
On to Winnipeg.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


The Top 100 Canadian Singles has had its second official launch event, this time in Vancouver.  Zulu Records was the site, and how appropriate.  Zulu has been active in the Vancouver music scene since the 70's, and is the spiritual home of the indie/alternative/punk scene in that city.  Its roots go deep, with such bands as Payolas, DOA, Slow, and Pointed Sticks.  Plus, where better to host a book launch about great Canadian music, than a great Canadian music store?

In the house was MC Grant Lawrence, Mr. CBC Radio 3.  Grant graciously took time off his own book tour to appear.  His new Adventures In Solitude was released this past Monday, and promises to be a great read, from my initial flipping of the pages.  Grant took the mic. and peppered me with questions about the Top 100 Canadian Singles, and then let the folks on the floor have a go too.  For a half-hour, we got to talk about Canadian music, whether it was in the book or not, engage the people there, and simply have a good time.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the appearance of several members of the 1978 graduating class of Fredericton High School.  Including myself, there were five in attendance, my West Coast friends Sue Hughson, Karen Vanderleedon, Andrew Bartlett and Suzanne Richard.  In fact, these fine folks hosted me the entire weekend, acting as tour guides, drivers, entertainment coordinators, dinner facilitators, and paparazzi.  Much coffee and stronger stuff was consumed.  Gelato was a high point.  Sushi and Malaysian and Jamaican, oh my.

Again, several of the jurors who voted in the Top 100 Canadian Singles were also in attendance, and it's always great to see and thank them.  A shout-out goes to Jill Barber, who assures me she came to see me talk, not her husband Grant.  Francois Marchand, Josh McNorton from the Albums jury, Kevin "Sipreano" Howes, Carol Maclean, and I'm probably forgetting someone.  It's been a whirlwind.

Okay, now it's on to Calgary.  The book launch there is Tuesday, Oct. 5, at Melrose on 17th Ave SW, 7 PM, hosted by CBC Radio's Danielle Nerman, who is a friend and a hoot.  In the meantime, the press and interviews keep on coming.  Before the launch, Grant and I sat down for an interview for his Radio 3 show, which will air this Tuesday.  And on Radio 2, I'll be a guest all week long in the morning with Bob Mackowycz.  Let's see...more CBC, I'm going to be on Calgary's Radio 1 afternoon show on Tuesday.  TV, check out Breakfast Television in Calgary with Tara Slone, Tuesday morning.  Monday night I'm on with Rob Breakenridge at 9 PM on AM 770 CHQR in Calgary, and AM 630 CHED in Edmonton.  I think that's it for a couple of days..

Saturday, October 2, 2010


As you have no doubt seen and heard, The Top 100 Canadian Singles is now here. The book was released on Thursday, Sept. 30th, and I can tell you there was tremendous media interest. I have spent almost every moment either doing an interviews, travelling to an interview, or writing answers to email questions. I'm behind on everything, especially blogging, and acknowledging all the friends and well-wishers who have been contacting me, so apologies to any and all I haven't talked to personally.

The official launch of the book was held Thursday night at Ben McNally's in Toronto. It's a wonderful bookstore, the kind you want to spend hours in, spacious and full of actual books, not chocolate, fridge magnets or DVD's.  I wanted to shop, but had to do TV interviews instead.  The place was filled with friends, family, people who voted in the book and musicians.

Dave Bidini was the MC, renowned author and recording artist, who appears in the Top 100 Canadian Singles at #42, with Rheostatic's "Claire".  Dave said some touching things about me, which he made up, and then regaled us with a list of the most obscure Canadian artists and singles with the strangest names imaginable.  It was so obscure, I had never heard of most of them.  The point was, of course, there are so many great Canadian songs, so let's not forget the ones who didn't make the Top 100.

After a standard boring speech from me, the really highlight happened.  Because I'm a music journalist, I wanted to show people what it is I do to make these books.  So I was joined on stage by my fellow East-Coaster, the great Newfoundland songwriter Ron Hynes.  Ron talked about the song of his in the Top 100, the folk classic "Sonny's Dream".  He wrote it in 10 minutes in a van full of musicians and comedians, rolling through the back highways of Newfoundland.  Then to everyone's pleasure and amazement, Ron broke out into song, a brilliant a capella rendition of "Sonny", which left folks gasping.

I was also honoured to see several of the musicians with songs in the book in attendance.  I got a chance to finally meet some talented people in person.  Mister Zero from the Kings was there, with the band's "Switchin' To Glide/This Beat Goes On" finishing at #72 in the book.  From The Diodes, members John Hamilton and Ian Mackay were in the house, catching their first glimpse of the book featuring the punk classic "Tired Of Waking Up Tired" at #23.  From the Ugly Ducklings, I finally got a chance to meet Dave Bingham, who has been a delight to speak to for both the Top 100 Canadian Albums and Singles books, via email.  At number 33, was their Toronto garage rock classic "Nothin".

On we go now..I'm already in Vancouver eating sushi, doing more interviews.  The next book launch is here, Sunday Oct. 3 at 4 PM at Zulu Records.  MC Grant Lawrence of CBC Radio 3 will pounce on me for a question and answer session, and we'll talk about the songs just like the music geeks we are.  It's open to all, and books are on sale.  I will sign but my writing is so bad, people will just think a 2-year old scribbled on it.

Don't forget to join the blog or facebook site, and join the discussion the songs featured in the book, and the many excellent ones that didn't make it.

Best, Bob