Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Post-Q Thoughts

CBC Radio One is an example of our tax-dollars being put to the best possible use in a given medium, and Q, as hosted by Jian Ghomeshi, is the cream of the crop. It may be "lighter" in content than Ideas, but it is every bit as thought-provocative. Consider the Nov 27 show (pod) which features back-to-back interviews with Gene Simmons and David Foster. Simmons has taken it upon himself to save the Canadian record industry; Foster took off for LA to become the hit-maker of the 80s and 90s.

Two impressions from the show:

(1) I don't know how this happens, but despite the fact that Simmons should be the dreariest (if not loathsome) personality on the planet, I end up (as ever) quite charmed by his performance. I'm not sure what he's likely to accomplish in his latest gambit, but I suppose we owe him at least some credit for the longevity of RUSH: Geddy Lee has said that opening for KISS in the 70s was all the education RUSH needed to survive. Lee & Co. saw firsthand that while the other KISS members were partying and packing their faces with drugs, Simmons was mostly sober and fastidiously working the business (when he wasn't, erm, "working" the groupies).

(2) In the musical component of the Foster interview, Foster off-handedly says he had to "do the math" before approaching the piano -- a statement that spoke volumes to me. I was a disaster at math all through my primary education. For reasons that still elude me, that all changed in my 30s. And music, at least as it is appreciated in the West, is chiefly a mathematical exercise: it can be basic math like Hank Williams and KISS, or it can be the more complex stuff like late Coltrane, or Branford Marsalis. Either way, the performer abandons rigor and structure at his (or her) own peril.

Addendum: There is a subtext to these conversations that I think is worth making explicit. Ghomeshi was, in a former life, one of the front-men for Moxy Früvous (w). I was loitering in the Toronto music scene back in the day when Ghomeshi's band was sharing the stage with The Barenaked Ladies. At the time I was sure Moxy Früvous would soar to much greater heights than the Ladies: when they both participated in public workshops, MF would improvise songs that were catchier, cleverer and funnier than TBL. MF eventually cultivated a respectable "college" crowd. As for the Ladies, well ....

Anyway, when Ghomeshi challenges Simmons on his notion of how Canadian musicians need to change the challenge arises from his history as a performer. I'm sure he has some trenchant thoughts re: the desirability and nature of fame and fortune. I'd love to hear him expound, but this show is not his platform -- he is only its able host.

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