Segarini: Don’t Show Me Your Big Ass, Show Me the Music

There are times when I wonder why I have been so blessed as to have borne witness to, or been a part of, so many wonderful times and places centered around leaps forward in music and pop culture in general. If ever there was proof of “being here for a reason”, my good fortune seems to verify the thought’s validity.

Tapdancin-Bobby-CaptionedI started playing music at a very early age. A single digit tap dancing, accordion playing, ukulele strumming, guitar and piano mauling pipsqueak, with a penchant for comic books, magazines, movies, television, and all things related to music.

I stumbled from one to the other, blindly going where no Bob had gone before. Too naive to think for a moment that I couldn’t do anything I set my mind (and my heart) to, and too wrapped up in the exploration to even doubt whether or not it was a good idea. I didn’t care whether they were good ideas or not, I just had to do what I was doing.

This train of thought, unfortunately, leads to a lot of head-butting and finger-wagging. Even back then, there were always people who questioned or challenged change or risk, choosing instead to barge forward in one direction, never taking the chance to open a new door, take a different route, or leap head first into unknown territory.

It is much worse now.

Much Cartoon 1

Now, decisions are made based on a piece of paper or computer screen covered with numbers, some in black, some in red. No names. No people are considered. Just the numbers. No changes made to turn those numbers around by allowing new voices to be heard or ideas taken to fruition. These days, it’s simple. Cut costs to make the numbers better.

Any fool knows you have to spend money to make money. So I guess it is safe to say that the people running the entertainment business for the last 20 years or so are no fools.

=0=

MUCH Dreamers

Dreams are funny things.

They motivate us. They energize and inform us. They can be vague and confusing at times, but the good ones, the ones your subconscious  will NOT let go of, natter away at you like a nagging wife (or husband) until you act upon them…and those are the dreams that build lives, or careers, or empires.

Dreams are powerful.

So powerful that they attract others. When a dream becomes a vision, two things happen. First and foremost, one person’s vision will attract others who share that vision. A truly great vision is like a magnet. It attracts those whose capacity to dream carries with it a desire, an obsession really, to make that vision, that dream, a reality.

When that happens, the wheels are set in motion that attract the other element we are all too familiar with. Those who do not dream. Those whose creativity has either been stifled or corrupted. Those who cannot see the dream or vision at all. They see something else. They see an opportunity. They see wealth. They see power. They see fame and fortune. And THAT is what attracts them.

MUCH Bell Media

Dreams are born of love and desire.

Dreams that become visions are nurtured, evolve, adjust, and grow. One becomes two, becomes three, and so forth and so on, until a powerful family coalesces made up of visionaries, financiers, dreamers, and implementers, and then the work begins. And if that work is successful. If the vision becomes reality, THAT is when those who see only the benefits of that dream, that vision, that hard work, come out f the shadows and into the light.

Sometimes, those who see the potential are benign and take the vision to a higher level.

And sometimes, those who see the potential insert themselves either by charm, or with promises…and sometimes, when they are rebuffed or discouraged…they find other ways to obtain that which they covet.

…and sometimes, they acquire a vision because it is attached to something else they want.

We all know what happens when you get extra apps or software when we buy a computer or phone, or load a program that comes with peripherals we not only don’t want, but don’t understand.

We delete them.

…and now, we delete people.

MUCH Mismanagement

=0=

Nowhere is this evidenced as clearly as what has happened to radio and the music industry, and 2 of the delivery systems of that music, MTV, and (closer to the heart) MUCH Music.

I have heard all the arguments as to why the two classic television services, the record companies, and radio, have floundered and been eviscerated and pointed in a direction that barely recognizes their past glory…so many times, that I can’t help but wonder if the naysayers and “professionals” all got the same memo from the same consulting committee whose knowledge of the history of radio, records, MTV and MUCH and music itself, was learned from someone who lives under a rock and only watches sports and the shopping channel, hasn’t bought a CD or record in 30 years, and listens to classic rock and old people bitch about politics and goal tending on talk radio stations. The only thing they seem to understand…are the numbers.

One thing stands out in these conversations.

Blame.

It couldn’t POSSIBLY be the people running things. Otherwise, why would they be running things?

So…it MUST be something else. Right?

So…what we have is a bogeyman. A thing hiding on your desk and in your phone, a thing that is everywhere.

It is Hitler, the plague, the Visigoths, and the Commies. It is the gangbanger, the Left, and the Mother-in-Law.

It is The Internet.

MUCH Evil Internet

…and to those who tell me to my face that they are “embracing the new paradigm” and are “striving to utilize the internet in new and exciting ways”, I say, “Bullshit”.

Any innovation to radio, records, distribution, and television, have ALL been done by tech companies. 15 years after the murder most foul of Napster, it is pretty evident that whoever is in charge of all these things have become politicians…talking a lot without really saying anything, telling us what they are going to do, and doing nothing.

…and yes, there are exceptions to this…but they are so few and far between, they are buried under the same pile of bullshit the rest of us are. If I gave you examples of why I believe what I just said, this column would be a book.

=0=

One thing I will go into detail about is the recent vivisection of MUCH Music.

MUCH, which has been a member of the Walking Dead for a decade or two, lost its way when it dumbed down its content and decided that brain dead denizens of the Jersey Shore and chirpy fashion victim celebrity worshippers were what people wanted. Judging from their “research” and “Consultants”, they chose to join the march to the sea with just about everybody else in show business, instead of sitting down and figuring out what THEY could instead of trying to do what the INTERNET already did.

Much Cartoon One

The answer was, and is, right under their noses. Damn near the same solution lies just under all the other related business’s noses as well.

In the old days, when I would pipe up and explain what I mean (mostly to the deaf and denying) I was just trying to plant a seed. No more.

Now, I, and other like-minded people whose vision for MUCH is still intact, know better to go to the powers that be. They will just quote their research, give us a T Shirt, and have us escorted to the door. Nope…done with that.

This time, the beancounters will solve our problem for us…because this time, the bed has been shit so much, that the only solution for many of them will be to sell off their non-performing assets.

…and then things will change…or more to the point…things will pick up where they should have picked up years ago. I will give you a hint. It is a statement as true now as it was when it was first used almost 80 years ago,

Content is King

=0=

Much Logo

Most of you old timer Canadians know what MUCH Music was like when it debuted 30 years ago and the effect that it had on everything. For our American and overseas readers, it was a lot like MTV if MTV had been run by people who just threw open the door and let the children play. What we were, and what we did, was create a living, breathing entity that could find its own way. When we were infected by those who ‘knew better’, the long decline into obscurity began.

This is a reminder. And within the reprinted column below are solutions to the problems that caused MUCH to become an urban version of Duck Dynasty with Sparkly Vampires and delusional “singers and actors”.

A few of the original gang got together earlier this week and displayed the same energy and joy we first shared 30 years ago.

You should have been there….

=0=

Editor’s Note: Most of the following was originally published here in DBAWIS on August 31st, 2012. It has been enhanced with additional material and brought up to date.

August 31st, 1984 saw the launch of Much Music in Canada. Unlike MTV, which had launched 3 years earlier, Much was a hotbed of innovation, creativity, and rebellious youth. We were not just the “Nation’s Music Station”, we were a frigate in a sea of uncharted waters, captained by a wide-grinned Rapscallion, manned by a rag-tag crew of slightly bent Orphans, Rakes, and Rowdies, and carrying a cargo of mousse-haired, shoulder-padded Dreamers armed with guitars, drums, and confidence. We were a Skid Row Noah’s Ark with a Penthouse view, and enough beer, blow, and bluster to build an Empire. It was the 1984…no one knew where their kids were….

=0=

After many years in rock bands, and a few in radio, I was summarily drafted into television by a wily and mischievous imp named John Martin. I had worked with John before, once as the subject of a CHUM/CITY TV Simulcast television special filmed at the Palais Royal with The Segarini Band, and then as the Announcer Voice over on a few specials with the likes of Motorhead. Inour circle of friends at the time was an ex CHUM DJ named J.D Roberts, (Pictured here Bob, Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickenson, and J.D),  an absolutely charming and professional broadcaster and journalist who was the host, along with Jeanne Becker, of the long running New Music on CITY TV, to this day the best music newsmagazine that ever aired. Many others would follow, but J.D, Jeanne, and singer/songwriter and host of CITY TVs City Limits, Christopher Ward, were the foundation of Much Music’s personable stable of hosts, creative writers, and commentators.

There was no budget, no room, no precedent, and no way we were going to fuck it up. The Man Upstairs, Moses Znaimer, whose brilliant stamp was all over this thing, would just show up periodically, yell at a few people to motivate us, and disappear back into his Aerie, leaving the operation in the hands of John Martin, the previously mentioned leader of the pack.

Much wasn’t much in those days as the story below will evidence, but it had a bigger heart, a smaller ego, and a sense of joy that made it THE place to work in the entertainment industry in Canada. Once inside that room, you had a chance to build a career, but unlike today, that wasn’t the motivation behind anybody wanting to be there. It was where the action was…and it was a blast. Much’s policy of featuring local music, of elevating Canadian artists to the same stature as the British and American acts that held sway at the time, was ground-breaking. As many videos and interviews were afforded the local acts as any of the artists who came from without. Much Music gave equality to Canadian artists, and was instrumental in opening the door to their international recognition and acceptance.Teenage Head/David Bendeth Interview

=0=

When Much celebrated its 25th Anniversary a few years ago, the current honchos chose not to celebrate the station’s beginnings or past. The word from on high was, ‘nobody would care’. Well, let me tell you something Mr. Smarty Pants Big Shot…everyone who worked there up to and including the move from 99 to 299 Queen, and every person who tuned in from coast to coast and grew up with Much Music and the music it presented, may have grown up and out of your target demographic, but every one of them, and their kids, and for some, their grandkids, would have tuned in to the festivities and had a ball remembering when you were about music and not a slew of ‘reality’ shows featuring a low-brow bunch of knuckle draggers whose desperate lives at least make us feel better about our own, but little else.

=0=

The worst blow, the biggest hurt, came from not being able to get together again to celebrate something we all contributed to and was a big part of our lives. We did have a party after the snub, and it was filled to the brim with great people,, great stories, and a great time. (Pictured: Jim Shutsa, Claude Barnes, Bob, and Janice Groom)Much, like any ‘venerable’ institution, was built by people who cared, and carried aloft by people who also cared for what Much presented to them. You should NEVER forget that. Without the people, both creating, and enjoying what you do, any business is just a building. Much Music started out in one room in a tiny, overcrowded building full of hopeful, hard-working boys and girls to whom music was a passion. We were “The Nation’s Music Station”, and we have never forgotten it…you shouldn’t either. Much Music TV Ad

=0=

Flashback….

In early Spring of 1984 I got another life changing phone call, this one from John Martin. I had known John from working with him on some of CITY TV’s live concerts for John’s show The New Music. Warren Cosford had organized a traveling show of music videos that toured local schools and showed the latest vids on a big screen with a huge sound system and reinvented the sock-hop in the process. These shows were massively successful, and it occurred to Warren, John, and Moses Znaimer that it was time for a Canadian equivalent to MTV to be launched in Canada. The phone call asked for a meeting on the rooftop patio at Queen Street’s Bamboo, and when we had that meeting, John asked me to become one of 3 producers of the MuchMusic Television Network.

Again, this is covered at length in the DBAWIS archives, but I will repeat the one exchange with John I will never forget.

“What does a producer do in television John?” I asked.

“You’ll find out” he answered with a Cheshire Cat smile…

 =0=

You want me to do what?

When I asked John (Martin) what a television producer did, I expected an answer. You know, words strung together in such a fashion as to deliver pertinent information explaining what it was a person had to do that would result in television being produced in a timely and acceptable manner. “You’ll find out”, was not an acceptable answer.

I said, “Seriously, what does a television producer do.”

John let out a cloud of cigarette smoke, leaned across the table and, looking a lot like the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, said, “Seriously, you’ll find out” and leaned back into his chair, his grin now so large I didn’t think his face could contain it. If you’ve ever sat with John, you will remember that smile, a cross between Prince Charles, Mr. Ed, and a white picket fence.

He then told me his plans. His eyes lit up as he spoke, arms flailing about in the air, cigarette ash flying and beer spilling from the Blue he was waving around. He was excited. Laughing as he talked, clearly, passionately, unable to contain himself. His enthusiasm was infectious, and within minutes, I was as excited as he was.

John could do that to you. He was a force of nature.

I had to choose between staying at Q107, or stumbling blindly into the unknown. I asked Gary, (Slaight), if I could stay on at Q doing a different shift, and work at John’s music television station during the day, and he said no.

In the end, the attraction of the unknown, and the opportunity to once again be at ground zero was too appealing to pass up.

For the third time in my life, I was going to let the seat of my pants do the flying.

 =0=

A little history lesson…

Much Music wasn’t always at 299 Queen Street West. It had its beginnings way down the street on the ‘wrong’ side of town. If you stood on the sidewalk out in front of 99 Queen Street East and threw a rock towards the rising sun, you could hit a hooker on the Jarvis Track. Or a drunk. Or a bum. We didn’t have sex workers, alcoholics, or homeless people yet, we just had hookers, drunks, and bums.

The seeds of what was to become Much Music started in this little 4 story building, first with the advent of John Martin’s The New Music in 1979, which was the absolutely first newsmagazine styled show that focused on contemporary music in North America, exposing local Toronto artists to a television audience across the country as well as major, (and not so major), touring bands from Canada and all over the world, and introduced a popular radio personality to TV viewers, J.D Roberts, seen here in 1981, a full two months before MTV launched, with a nice piece on Triumph at the Knob Hill, and, a few years later, with a wonderful no-holds-barred experiment that ran on Friday and Saturday nights from midnight to 6 in the morning. It was called City Limits, and was hosted by one Christopher Ward.

So now you have the introspective reportage and informative interview style of The New Music, and the humour and edginess of City Limits, and two very likable personalities with totally different approaches. That, combined with Warren Cosford and CHUM’s music savvy and early acceptance of music videos, and Moses Znaimer’s intuitive and incredible knack of pushing the envelope and trusting people’s passion and vision, would come together in a heretofore unimaginable stew.

It was just a matter of time.

=0=

One room…that’s all?

A month or two before we went to air, John started to assemble his family in our new home. The first time I walked into the space, it was full of people painting walls, laying cable, moving furniture, and bumping into one another.

“Where’s the rest of the studios and offices”, I asked.

“This is it”, said John, cigarette dangling from the picket fence and a box of video tapes in his hands.

“This is it?” I looked around.

Much Music was a single room that would eventually contain about 20 desks, a little glass walled audio control room, 2 big old school television cameras on dollies, a couple of editing bays, and, at the far end of the room, the entire brain of the whole operation. The VCR’s, tape ops, director, G5 effects operator, a wall of monitors, and various other wizards and electronics would sit at what looked like the lunch counter at Woolworths and somehow translate the mayhem that went on in this room into television entertainment for the whole of Canada.

It did not seem possible. A bunch of 20-somethings and a handful of 30-somethings being allowed to create a television network based on music and pop culture.

What on earth was Moses smoking?

There were three of us designated as producers. Michael Haydon, Anne Howard, and me. We worked like firemen. 4 days on, 3 days off, 2 of the days you wrote shows, created the playlists, and chatted with whoever was VJ’ing those days, and the other 2 days, you were on the floor, wearing a headset and giving the 3, 2, 1, visual signals to your VJ so he knew when to talk. We had two camera men, and two directors,

Dennis Saunders and Jim Shutsa, a finer pair of professional yet fun loving guys you would be hard pressed to duplicate. Michael handled Chris Ward’s segments almost all of the time, and became the leader of the Booze Mothers, Much’s house band, who eventually got their own TV special.

Michael and Anne knew what they were doing at all times. I, on the other hand, was very much like Homer Simpson, hoping Moses didn’t yell at me while I wondered when I was going to accidentally blow the place up.

We usually started around 10 in the morning. At noon, we would go live and shoot 6 hours of the live broadcast, which would then be repeated an additional 3 times until noon the next day, when we would do it all over again. A lot of work, but even though it was exhausting to do, people would stay after 6, and sometimes work until 6 the next morning, doing bits and drop ins, experimenting, and creating.

No one seemed to mind.

There were no memos telling us not to do that. There were no rules at all. It was heaven…and led to stuff like this.

Joining J.D and Chris were Michael Williams, a Cleveland native that was knee deep in soul music and had a voice like Barry White’s, and Catherine McClenahan, a drop dead beautiful woman who was great at everything she did. She didn’t stay long, for whatever reason, and she ended up marrying the guy that played Dauber on Coach. Catherine was Much’s first female presenter. Erica Ehm was the receptionist who moved up later on, and no, she is not Moses’ Goddaughter or niece or anything. Jeanne Beker was on board doing Rock News and interview pieces. Marv was our sound man, and among the other hard working kids, Simon and Tony, a tape op, would eventually become hosts, Simon Evans and Master T. Much Music 1986 Flashback with Commercials

=0=

Jamaican Patties, coffee, and Zen Chili…some stories

10:00 am was like 5:00 am to me. I would get coffee at this little stand at the corner of Church and Queen. I would also get a couple of meat patties to eat until lunch.

They were hotter than hell. It got to the point when you could always find me in the can around 11:00, cursing Jamaica.

We had a deal with a place called The Groaning Board that provided all of us with lunch every day. The only problem was it was healthy food. The Chili was vegetable unless you begged for meat. There were more grains in the bread than sand on a beach. Once, I asked for a ham sandwich on white bread with mayo, iceberg lettuce, and dill pickles. I got a dry slab of pork on pumpernickel with romaine lettuce, miracle whip, and cucumbers.

Eventually most of us brought lunch or sent somebody to Mickey D’s or KFC.

Because of the crowded conditions some pretty funny shit happened once in a while. One of the women that worked there had to flip through the pages of the new Billboard to get some info, which was on my desk, at the same time that Michael Williams was doing a throw to a video. He was standing at Chris’s desk which was buttressed up against mine. Unable to stop her, (we were live), she barreled into the shot, and bent over my desk in front of Michael, and began flipping through the Billboard, which was below frame and not visible on camera, her head bobbing up and down with each turn of the page. As everyone in the room saw what was happening on the monitors it was all we could do not to break into gales of laughter. When the shot was done, we all lost it, the woman in question asked what was so funny, and somebody told her.

A lot of us almost got fired that day.

Chris keeping a straight face during an interview while the lead singer of Frankie Goes to Hollywood tried to pick him up.

Julian Lennon’s manager smoking my entire pack of Camel Lights in about an hour, and not even saying thanks.

Going to Fillmore’s, a strip joint, to meet a friend of mine and having J.D along with me for an after work drink. We weren’t at the bar for more than three minutes when every girl that wasn’t wrapped around a pole gravitated to John and started presenting themselves. J.D, always a gentleman and professional to a fault, made it out alive without hurting anybody’s feelings, and with all his clothes still zipped and buttoned.

Little Richard being Little Richard.

Drinking and having wings at Hart’s all the time with most of the staff. We were a jolly bunch.

Filling in on camera occasionally, Tina Hart decided one afternoon that I needed some makeup and a hair style. I went on camera one layer of rouge short of looking like I should be working at Ringling Brothers. Very funny, Tina…

Chasing Mike Williams down the hall when he would go into the vault and come out with 25 videos, all by black artists. I would have to explain to him that we weren’t Soul Train. Pictured: Chris, Denise Donlon, Michael Williams, Erica Ehm

Dinner and drinks at Emilio’s, which was right next door to us. John would hold court, sometimes with Moses, and we would all exchange ideas, stories, and suggestions while having a great meal and a few pints.

There wasn’t one person there that wasn’t into the music. Everyone would make suggestions. When we had our weekly music meetings and looked at the new releases, there was plenty of chatter about what to play and how often to play it. The result was a mix of everything from James Brown to Flock of Seagulls to Rush, Liona Boyd, Earth Wind and Fire, and everything in between.

If you were in the building, working as an intern, or getting coffee, or anything, you had an opportunity to be on-air, and some rose to the occasion and still have careers to this day.

Where MTV was scripted, stationary, and fairly ‘white bread’, we were shooting throws all over the building, out on the fire escape, the roof, and even the john. Like CITY-TV…we were Everywhere!

Christopher brought people likeMike Myers into the mix, with sketches and set ups that existed nowhere else on television at the time. And it was always…always, about the music. Great memories. Great people. Happy Anniversary everyone. Much I.Ds

=0=

Will we EVER get what MUCH was originally intended to be? Your guess is as good as mine…but there IS a way to make it what it always should have evolved into…and that, my friends, is a start. …we shall see.

MuchMusic Reunion

The Class of 1984-85

Christopher Ward, Steve Anthony, Michael Williams, Tanya Humphry-Anthony, Dennis Saunders, Bob Segarini, and Kim Champniss. Not pictured, Ann Howard, and the Ghost of John Martin

=0=

Your Comments are Welcome.

Segarini’s regular column appears here every Friday whenever he can finish one in time.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” 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 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: