JAIMIE VERNON – MY LIFE AS A FANZINE MOGUL (Part 1)

Vernon_Penny_LaneFor those barely following along at home on a weekly basis I thought it most imperative that you should know I was a founding member of the band Moving Targetz (1983 – 1991) which released several albums on our own vanity label Bullseye Records. The earlysuccess of the label was directly proportional to the amount of promo we did as a band. From August 1989 to June 1991 we issued a monthly newsletter to fans called M.T. Head (Ex)Press [20 years before Social Media]. This thrice-Shrapnel_FINALfolded, double-sided photocopied promo tool – printed surreptitiously in the administrative offices of my government day job – was eventually absorbed into a subsection of my full-length fanzine ‘Great White Noise’ in August 1990. Here is what I consider to be the editorial highlights of that modest little experiment in marketing during that first year.

NAME DROPPING IN NEW YORK

Originally printed in August 1989

New YorkWell, here it is! The very first installment of MT Head (Ex)Press: The Official Moving Targetz Fan Club Newsletter…only 6 years and forty one typewriter ribbons in the making (hey, it’s tough playing guitar with one hand and one-finger pecking with the other). This rag will be in your hot little hand the first week of every month from now until the next postal increase/strike. This “letter” style is an open forum for the members of Moving Targetz and their fans. So, if we spew off, you can spew off too. We’ll print anything and everything. Just send your letters, party invites, nude photos (Brownie, polaroid or Kodachrome), weekly laundry, cash, green stamps, etc. Now, on with the show…

Moving Targetz singer Ivan Judd and bassist Jaimie Vernon headed down to New York City on July 15, 1989 to participate in the New Music Seminar 10 aka Manhattan Bladderfest ’89 – which is an excuse for 72 hours of non-stop drunk which cleverly disguises itself as a music trade show. Over the period of several days the guys picked up several hundred dollars worth of sample CD’s, tapes, stickers, magazines and condoms (!?!) from 50 exhibitors. The duo also had breakfast one morning with CFNY’s Liz Janik and the ever popular Chalk Circle with guest appearances by Intrepid Records chief Stuart Raven-Hill and Spirit of the West. During the four busy days the guys also managed to squeeze in half-a-dozen business seminars, courier drop offs to 16 major record companies, pub-crawls to CBGB’s/The Cat Club/The Pool Bar, and attempted food poisoning at a Manhattan Burger King. The focal point of the whole seminar was to schmooze and interview potential contacts. On this point Jerry Love of Famous Music Publishing (ever heard of Living Color?) showed considerable interest in the band’s songs. After absorbing remixes of the band’s newest material, he expressed concern in coming to see Moving Targetz play in Toronto at a special industry showcase sometime in the very near future.

Any similarity between characters living or dead is a matter of personal opinion. Unsolicited material is encouraged and will be sold on the free market at par.

Next Issue: Nothing about the Cowboy Junkies…

      RECORD COMPANIES 6, MOVING TARGETZ O

Originally printed in September 1989

Then-Now3While in New York (Manhattan proper), promotional tapes and cute baby pictures of the M.T.’s were dropped on the heads of no less than 16 major record companies (except CBS USA who don’t need any new acts competing with their precious Michael Jackson and Spring Brucesteen). Rejection notices have been flooding in like Elvis sightings at burger joints in the American mid-west. We, on the receiving end of such form letters, affectionately call these missives P.F.O. letters (Please Fuck Off). Here’s what the ‘experts’ had to say about Moving Targetz’ music:

ELEKTRA: “…it was determined that the material is not in keeping with our musical direction at this time.”

E.M.I.: “…I appreciate the creative efforts which you have put into the project and wish you success in the future. Unfortunately, I am not interested in pursuing your project any further.” (READ: Never write to me again!)

SIRE: “…the volume of tapes and records received daily in this office does not permit us to give each and every act personal attention…SIRE have been forced, due to a saturated and successful roster, to forego reviewing new material for the time being” [Editor’s note: The label would sign Canada’s k.d. lang, Rheostatics, Meryn Cadell and The Barenaked Ladies within 18 months of this letter]

WARNERS: “Thank you for letting us hear your material. We regret to say that, after listening, we feel your work does not meet our needs and requirements.”

SBK: “Thanks for the recent submission. Unfortunately, SBK Records can make no commitment to MOVING TARGETZ at this time.”

Well, at least the last company spelt our name right!

Back in Canada CBS Records was handed a copy of the group’s “Not Just For Those Who Believe In God” cassette featuring the well received agnostic ballad “Do You Believe In The Fantastic?”. We were soon told ‘We’re not signing any Christian acts’. Obviously, anyone who would sign such deep thinking pop pap as Cats Can Fly or Platinum Blonde must not know that you need to LISTEN to the cassette before dismissing it out-of-hand on titles alone. However, this wasn’t the first time we’d heard this presumption. In May and June of 1989 college radio station CFFF 96.3 in Trent, Ontario only after the band assured them it wasn’t a Christian Rock record. It seems they’d had their fill of the religious sect as the DJ pointed to a poster from a Christian Thrash Metal outfit whose latest release is entitled “Repent or Die!!!”. The confusion from people pre-judging the music has led Moving Targetz to discontinue the tape’s artwork, remix the songs, and sell the remaining stock on the black market for millions of dollars as a ‘rarity’.

Next Issue: Still no Cowboy Junkies…

SCARS, GUITARS AND LONG CARS

Originally printed October 1989

ActrashAm I wrong or did summer end as abruptly as new TV shows on the FOX Network? I mean, as soon as radio DJs announced September 22 as the first day of Fall, did the temperature not plummet 30 degrees and all the leaves suddenly drop from the trees? And it was only a coincidence that hurricane Hugo dropped in to say hello simultaneously?

On the music front: Can we not kill the next clown who points out that the new Tears For Fears song “Sowing the Seeds of Love” sounds like a certain Beatles song I refuse to mention just for sanity’s sake? It’s called showing your musical roots, people. It’s an homage. Move on. And now the news…

After an uncomfortable and nerve-racking hand operation to remove and evil lump from my wedding ring finger (making the wife nervous at my sudden ‘singleness’ in the face of millions of drooling Moving Targetz groupies), I headed to downtown Toronto for my regularly scheduled nightschool class at George Brown College. Having some free time before class, I scooted over to Sam The Record Man on Yonge Street to purchase the latest Paul McCartney single “This One”. While paying for said record (at the ridiculously over-inflated price of $2.99 + tax for a 1/8″ petroleum pizza) a dark and ominous figure was hustled out of the store faster than Zsa Zsa Gabor during trial day. Ah, an unlucky shoplifter, I reckoned. “Hell no,” yelled another shopper. “That thar wuz Alice Cooperrrr.” Needless to say, I barreled out of the store in time to catch the Prince of Hemorrhage himself sitting in the back of a white limo where it drove 20 entire feet and stopped two doors north at A & A Records. I pushed my way through the stunned looking crowd. Alice could be seen inside signing autographs on albums, jackets, camera lenses, and women’s heaving breasts. He quickly retreated with several of us, brains barely functioning, in hot pursuit. My heart sunk as the King of Gore ducked back into the limo. Suddenly, he popped out of the sunroof like some grotesque jack-in-the-box. I thrust the plastic-bag wrapped McCartney single at him as his magic marker scribbled something indecipherable across the surface. Success at last! I stood back from the curb stunned and even more stupid looking than the remainder of the crowd, after which the limo sped off following a city garbage truck that was blasting 2000 watts of Alice Cooper’s new album “Trash” at full volume.

I did manage to make it to night school on time with my left arm suspended over my heart to ease the swelling in my hand. However, many passing motorists misconstrued this as a left turn signal prompting a lot of misunderstanding and beeping horns. A cab driver even pulled over thinking I needed a ride.

CIRPA CIRPA CHEEP CHEEP

Originally printed November 1989

Michael_jackson_badWell, here we are again for another exciting, action-packed edition of MT Head Express – the newsletter that dares its readers to use more than 1/2 their brains. The paper is written on tree bark and is 90% less filling than conventional fibre products. And away we go…

The Canadian Independent Record Producers’ Association (CIRPA) invited Moving Targetz to the CIRPA Annual General meeting at Toronto’s Westbury Hotel for a booze & schmooze gabbarama. The hot topic for the evening’s speakers (industry lawyers…yaaaaawn) was revisions to Phase II of Canada’s Copyright Act. Without trying to cure your insomnia with lawyerese, simply put, various lobbyists (CIRPA, CAPAC, PROCAN, CRIA-E-I-O) have seen to it that the government help establish a performing rights remuneration policy for the PERFORMERS of musical works and quite possibly producers of same. Currently, only songwriters, composers and lyricists are paid when a song they write is played on the radio. Radio stations are against such a policy due to the fact that they will have to pay performers and producers as they do songwriters; something that’s always been free before. Worse still is the fact that foreign songs (US & European for the most part) will be exempt from this legislation giving radio stations one more reason to play non-Canadian music and leaving us poor Mapleheads eating Bald Eagle and Iron Lady guano. However, our forefathers (Pierre Juneau, Walt Grealis and Stan Klees) seized the opportunity to protect us from such unpatriotic poo-poo. The Canadian content regulation was implemented in 1971 to save us from our own otherwise lethargic radio stations north of the 49th parallel who must play a minimum of 30% Canuck-stuff in varying degrees. Many radio stations shirk this responsibility but that’s a battle for a whole new set of lobbyists.

Secondly (wait for it boys and girls), you’ll be relieved of your extra cashola when buying those naughty ‘music killing’ blank cassettes for home pilfering. Shame on you. Some big starched collar exec who thinks Bon Jovi is a type of designer denim jeans decided that Michael Jackson didn’t quite sell the 9 billion copies of his new album as expected. And it was because you sent a pirated copy to a cousin at the front line in war-torn Lebanon who thinks that ‘Bad’ is merely how he feels when he wakes up in the morning. So to all those people who hijacked a copy of somebody’s instantly forgotten flavour of the week LP, your name is now on Ottawa’s Gestapo List. The government promises they’re going to collect this blank tape levy and funnel the proceeds back into the bleeding Maple Music Machine (how’s that for alliteration?). That’s about as likely as Wayne Gretzky playing for the Toronto Make-Me-Laffs. Listen guys…home taping isn’t killing the music industry – it’s preventing totalitarian monopolies in the music business; note recent takeovers of A & M and Island Records by Polygram. Make music more affordable and you’ll see the reduction in pirating.

MERRY KRIMBLOUS AND A HARPY NUDE YEAR

Originally printed in December 1989

‘Tis the season to go bankrupt. Fa lala lala la la la la. Christmas time is upon us again – crashing in with all the grace of a big screen 3-D “House of Stewardesses”. This issue of MT Head (Ex)Press celebrates this commercialization of Christianity while marking two other post-holiday events which are significant to 1989; January 1st, 1990 waves goodbye to this particular year and tolls the death knell of the decade that will be known to future generations as the *I WANT* decade.

Tears for Jeers

TFFBy the looks of the letters we’ve received from readers, I really struck a chord (pun intended) with my comment about Tears For Beers’ “Sowing The Seeds of Love”. I stand by my original observation that it’s an homage to – not a lift of – The Beatles. Someone actually said to me “I don’t like the new Tears For Fears album because they’re doing that Beatles thing.” I then asked the person if they’d actually ‘listened’, listened to the rest of the full ‘The Seeds of Love’ album and they finally broke down and admitted that they hadn’t. Folks, the record is so different in its approach and composition – the majority of it is soulful and jazzy with barely any pop – that “Sowing The Seeds of Love” sticks out like a sore pimple. The tune just doesn’t belong on that album playing alongside Oleta Adams tinged “Woman In Chains” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzkK3ZtI9SU or “Advice for the Young At Heart”. Rest assured that this band hasn’t fallen into the ‘easy way out’ by ripping off the Beatles. Remember a few years ago when Billy Joel did a song called “Uptown Girl”? If anyone has that record I suggest you throw it on your stereo along with any 1960’s era Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons record. Gasp! Horror! Recoil! The records sound the same!!! Now, I ask you…did Billy Joel suddenly become a Four Seasons clone act? (that’s rhetorical, kid, just follow me here). If anyone is to be taken to task for ripping off Sir Lennon and Crew, check out the last two XTC albums – “Skylarking” and “Lemons & Oranges”. Not only is there not an original thought on either album (even the brilliantly astute “Dear God” borrows liberally from Lennon’s book of hostility toward authority figures) but the band then goes and hides behind the pseudonym The Dukes of Stratosphear and records two more albums of Beatles induced psychedelia complete with Sgt. Pepper-like song titles and artwork. In light of this, Tears For Fears’ song looks like a minor, trivial example of borrowing for the purposes of demonstration. On the other hand, has anyone noticed that the name Tears for Fears uses the ‘EA’ letter combo that allowed a non-descript insect like a beetle to become the greatest band name of all time…The Beatles? Hmmm.

[Editor’s note: This Tears For Fears piece technically constitutes the first unofficial album review I ever wrote].

Inferiority Complex

Moving Targetz_Take ManhattanWhen Targetz singer Ivan Judd and I were in New York this past July, we approached two reputed industry heavyweights granting “open” demo submissions during the New Music Seminar in Manhattan. The first was ATCO Records who are responsible for trying to make dinosaurs like Roxy Music and Yes appear to still matter. There was an ATCO drop-off booth where potential (and no-potential) acts could submit demo tapes for a kick at the proverbial can. Well, we did out part for Canadian detente by giving them two copies of our “Moving Targetz Takes Manhattan” cassette. I only planned to give them one but forgot to put our address and stuff on the first one I dropped into the submission box. That’s a lesson for ALL bands out there. Contact information is priority #1. I recently received a reply back from them – only 5 months in the making – which basically said “Please drop dead and thank you for thinking of ATCO.” It’s interesting to note that neither Roxy Music nor Yes exist any longer.

Anyhoot…keep those cards and death threats coming, folks. It’s a lonely insomniac filled life being a musician and we can use all the entertainment that food stamps can buy.

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

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