Segarini: Free Range Music…and the Return of Radio?

Other than making love, I don’t think there is a more intimate act than that which occurs when you hear a band or a solo artist that touches something inside of you that you didn’t know was there. An aural G-spot that connects to your brain, your heart, your soul and/or your loins and sends a signal that someone out there gets you. When you’re young this is a fairly frequent occurrence, but as you get older, it gets harder and harder to get a fix.

I’m guessing that everyone has a list of songs they never get tired of hearing. If you are anything like me, it is probably surprising how many of those songs are not from the usual suspects. Growing up when I did, you would think that I would have many favourites from The Beatles, Stones, and other classic rock icons, but there are very few ‘60s and ‘70s rock songs I get an urge to hear. On the rare occasion I do want to pull out a track from Rubber Soul or Revolver, for example, it isn’t the music I am interested in…it is the nostalgia that comes with it.

Musically, I am more drawn to the R&B of the era. And, strangely enough, a few songs from McCartney’s first solo album, recorded at home on a 4 track tape machine, and Ram, his highly underrated 2nd album when he was still insecure about working without the other Beatles, still trying to prove his talent, and still writing songs that took chances instead of almost everything that followed, the bland, predictable ditties that were clever for the sake of being clever, maudlin and coy in an unspoken effort to distance himself from the Fab Four and create his own legacy. Frankly, with the exception of Live and Let Die, his output since Ram leaves me cold. Ditto John Lennon whose Oh My Love was the only tune from his solo career that struck me as a fine piece of songwriting.

My love of music has always been centered on discovering new artists and songs. The ‘40s and early ‘50s music I heard as a boy opened the door to seek out more and different music. Thanks to Johnny Mercer and Glenn Miller, I discovered the blues and country and R&B, and of course, rock and roll. At 12, thanks to a beautifully bounced signal from a radio station in Salt Lake City and my Uncle Elbert’s dragging me to San Francisco to go the legendary Blackhawk, I found jazz. Somehow, I was lucky enough to be able to appreciate and be drawn to just about every genre available; Very lucky indeed. As I got older, I discovered that radio wasn’t the only place I could discover new music. There was a wealth of undiscovered music right under my nose…in the clubs and auditoriums, dance halls and teen centers. I had to be there. I had to be a part of it. I had to play. I had to be in a band.

I started writing music when I was in the 8th grade and 13 years old. By then I was getting reprimanded in choir class at Stockton Jr. High for constantly suggesting we learn songs by Dion and the Belmonts and the Everly Brothers. Once, to put me in my place (and shut me up) our choir master made me get up in front of the class and sing a song. I stood up, walked to the front of the room and launched into my first composition, I’m a Juvenile, and got wild applause. The teacher was so pissed off, she made me spend the remainder of the class in her office reading Faust, while my schoolmates droned through a zombie-tempo’d  version of Row, Row, Row, Your Boat. Mrs. What’s-Her-Name and I were at war from then on.

Later that year I sang at a school dance when my friends shoved me up on stage with the Eddie Lucchesi Trio. I was hooked. I entered a talent contest the following year and came in 3rd. The year after that I joined the band (The Jades) that won and we closed the show. I got fired from the band for growing my hair long, fired from the next one for smoking pot, and left the 3rd one to form my own band, The Family Tree. While all of that was playing out, I was searching for new music. I was always listening to my little Zenith transistor radio, checking out the new releases at Freitas and Miracle Mile record stores every Tuesday, or going to local shows or sneaking into bars to hear live music.

By the time I was 20, I was playing up and down the west coast from Vancouver to San Diego, and had recorded a single which was a regional hit (Prince of Dreams) and then signed with a major label, RCA.  Every city had local bands on the radio, all different, a lot of it great. Radio was an inspiration and a goal. Live…there were great bands everywhere. Soon, many of them would be famous.

Through the years, several bands and labels, the desire to hear music that has its way with me has been paramount. Most of my peer group (but not all) got off that train years ago, happy to wallow in the nostalgia of their youth, unable to admit that great new music even exists, and comfortable listening to the same old artists and songs they’ve been listening to for the last 30 or 40 years. I feel sorry for them. There is always something new out there that is worthy of people’s attention. It is still exciting to find something that speaks to you, engages you, and becomes part of your personal arsenal of music that accompanies you through life.

Although it had been ongoing for decades, I started to notice another twist in the mid ‘80s that led me to realize that some artists continued to evolve for the entire duration of their careers. Where lesser lights would find their groove and continue to repeat themselves musically, some adventurously wandered off the beaten path they had forged and, when they rose above their pasts, took us with them. Over the 7 year long career of the Beatles, we experienced a creative outpouring still unrivaled by damn near everybody, but after they split up, the individual members failed to keep my attention for very long. On the other hand, James Taylor, surviving what he himself refers to as “the great Folk Scare of the ‘60s” gave us Sweet Baby James, and by 1986 delivered “That’s Why I’m Here”, and continues to release material I will buy unheard because of his uniqueness, talent, and ability to touch me with his music. When it comes to music I never get tired of hearing, James has more than most on my Lifetime Playlist. The evolution of Marvin Gaye, from Hitch Hike and Pride and Joy through What’s Going On and Sexual Healing never stopped until his untimely death. The Eagles, Allman’s, Fourplay, all continue to speak to me with great songs and performances. After 20 years of being a favourite progressive rock band, Yes floored me with the 1987 release of Owner of a Lonely Heart, a near-perfect combination of song and performance near the top of my list to this day. Steve Winwood’s Higher Love? As vital as his Spencer Davis hit “I’m a Man”. Radio embraced these songs, and we were all the better for it.

The Punk and New Wave era saw new artists exploding without radio or major label support until it could no longer be ignored by the mainstream. Even though the era didn’t last long, its impact on music, especially live music continues to this day. Even the Boy Bands and Grunge artists eventually owned mainstream radio and record companies, and out of the vast, cookie cutter throngs, some great music surfaced and still gets listened to regularly. One song, Invisible Man by 98 Degrees still stands as one of the most haunting, heartfelt unrequited love songs of all time in my book. By then, however, radio and the labels started to tighten their vision, and much of the music coming up off the street was denied. There are literally hundreds of power pop and R&B artists and records from the late ‘90s and early ‘00s that will never see the light of day for most people.

Like millions of other musos, I troll the internet looking for my fix, new music or artists that float my boat, but for the past couple of years I’ve been finding most of my current favourites locally, in bars and at shows where the artists are just passing through. Toronto has such a huge influx of new artists every year, you can’t possibly see them all. Between NXNE, CMW, Indie Week, and other music oriented celebrations, the odds of finding something that speaks to you personally are limitless. All you have to do is get off your ass and go hear what’s available, at least as much as you can. Even though our tastes may vary, I’m sure you will find music that speaks to you personally just like I do.

Lately, I have noticed a small but growing trend I thought would never happen. I mean, I knew it would eventually happen, the pendulum always swings back no matter how far afield we wander, I just didn’t expect it to happen yet, or so close to home.

Radio and other media (read: television) are starting to pay attention again.

Local fan favourites Courage My Love hit number one on Music Plus recently. This Kitchener based trio is breaking in Canada as well as making inroads in England and other territories.

Harlan Pepper, Hamilton natives, are constantly touring, and their records are being played by NPR, CBC, and roots stations throughout North America.

Singer/songwriter/guitarist David Celia continues to grow his audience with 2 local residencies (The Cameron House on Fridays between 6:00 and 8:00 and Wednesdays at The Local from 9:00 until 12:30) as well as touring Europe, the U.S, and Canada.

(Alec) Fraser and (Mike) Daley hold down a residency on Wednesdays at The Intersteer from 8:00 until 11:00, constantly recording and seeing their music being played on roots stations and the CBC across Canada.

Jumple, a band which must be seen to be believed are starting to play more often, just killed it at Cherry Cola’s Friday night, and have been asked to come back as soon as they can, such was the response from Cherry’s music loving owners, staff, and audience. With a new CD and a growing fan base, Jumple should find themselves further along their career path in a matter of months.

Speaking of Cherry Cola’s, one of the greatest musical finds of late are returning to Cherry’s tomorrow (Tuesday, January 24th) after a whirlwind year of touring Europe and North America, and are gearing up for Japan. Rival Sons are so undeniable that radio is starting to play them to an audience that has been waiting for this kind of rock and roll for years. They have toured with AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Evanescence, and have started to headline shows in Europe, but seeing them in an intimate setting like Cherry Cola’s is an amazing experience. They’re playing an 11:15 set at the Horseshoe tonight, then Cherry’s tomorrow night. I will be at both shows, but can hardly wait to see and hear them at Cherry’s, their home away from Los Angeles. Their CD, Pressure and Time, is getting airplay both here and abroad, but I am thrilled that they seem to be breaking out of Canada. The title track hits the top ten this week in the Great White North, where we seem to be setting trends with some regularity these days. Rival Sons do have a Canadian member (Robin Everhart) who hails from Markham. You need to see this band in small intimate club like Cherry’s. They will remind you of the reason we all love music in the first place. Scott Holiday on Rival Sons Even recorded on a phone or camera with a tiny microphone, you can tell how great the sound is at Cherry Cola’s. This is a fan clip from a secret show they did after opening for Evanescence at the Sound Academy in October.  Rival Sons live at Cherry Cola’s October 15th 2011

There is great music being made. Find it online, seek it out in the clubs, hell, it looks like you can even turn your radio back on. Something is happening. Maybe Tween Pop is on the wane, but even if it isn’t, some radio stations are opening up their ears, and their playlists, and that is all we ask. Time to take back the airwaves, give us back the music.

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Segarini’s column appears every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, The Segarini Band, and Cats and Dogs, and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late GreatMovies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now sadly gone), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck.com with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

2 Responses to “Segarini: Free Range Music…and the Return of Radio?”

  1. Glenn Gallup Says:

    Bob

    Funny you should mention The Jades. I’m in the middle of writing a blog post about the night you guys rehearsed at the house on Swain Road. I’ll send you a link.

    Glenn

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