JAIMIE VERNON – WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

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Hey, faithful readers. Welcome back to a new year and a new blog for 2015. The hope of our illustrious leader, Mr. Segarini, was that the DBAWIS Writers Guild might come up with ‘best of’ lists for 2014 to ease us into the new year. Alas, I’ve got nothing.

20150101_225032Not without trying, however. 2014 was a good year for me personally – despite losing a job I hated, I bounced back with a job I sort of like which involves driving around in the Mystery Machine solving crimes committed by joggers and small animals in a graveyard. The pay is lower but I get to have more time off to myself, see my family and do more of the things I love – which is listen to music, mostly.

The new music I listened to last year was plentiful but the true standouts came from Canadians Emilia, Beautiful Nothing, Bob Menzies and American act Vintage Trouble whose appearance at Lee’s Palace a few months back is tied with the best show I saw in 2014 by 54.40.

I’m far more interested in pushing forward in 2015. I expect that Mr. Menzies will have another new album out by year’s end. And Toronto area local singer-songwriter, Andy Griffiths, is promising a new studio album entitled “Stella Started It”. He’s at www.andygriffiths.ca

10891626_10152967385099210_6144717686778954093_n Meanwhile, The CEO and chief bottle washer of www.radiothatdoesntsuck.com, Todd Miller, is also threatening to finally put out his debut album “Late Bloomer” this year. He’s looking for a producer. Look him up on Facebook. I’ve played in bands with the man and he’s a hell of a performer AND songwriter. In these clips he teases us with his pop influences…:

My plans for 2015 include writing and recording a new solo album, launching the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia radio show with my brother-in-law Jef Leeson, the completion of the Skip Prokop biography “Sunny Days” and the revival of my dormant record label Bullseye Records.

Bullseye Not Suing 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the label. And though it ceased to be a functioning entity in 2010, Bullseye’s musical wake has endured. With help from the cast of characters (and let’s face it, caricatures) from the label’s lengthy history we’re going to launch a two-pronged attack: a boxed set entitled ‘Hitzstory’ and a tell-all book entitled ‘Bullsography’. The boxed set will feature a ‘best of’ collection of tracks plus lots of rarities from the label’s archive dating back to our vinyl and cassette roots in 1985. The discs will be a soundtrack to the book. It’s a project I’ve kicked down the field twice already because I couldn’t get any perspective on our achievements while I was in the middle of the mayhem – it seemed self-serving at that point. I abandoned plans for a Bullseye ‘best of’ in both 2000 and 2005  – though we did release an anniversary sampler that year during Canadian Music Week. It should have included a 20th anniversary DVD which was skillfully assembled by our pals at Dante Entertainment. Fortunately, elements from that DVD have since popped up on YouTube. And the book, well, it needed time to ferment.

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Since the commercial and critical success of Goddo frontman Greg Godovitz’s tell-all autobiography ‘Travels With My Amp’ in 2001 (which I edited and then co-published with Abbeyfield Press), I’ve been asked by colleagues and music fans alike to write the story about Bullseye and the seemingly outrageous adventures that ensued from not only hanging out with former rock stars, wannabes and the never-quite-stars in the Canadian music business, but through my hands-on involvement with the ongoing maintenance and babysitting of their careers. It seemed a rather self-indulgent exercise to me. I guess when you’ve lived through it things appear to be ‘business as usual’ rather than dramedy and Rock ‘n’ Roll hi-jinx. But when you recount these tales to others, the memories and gravitas of the anecdotes take on a life of their own.

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Besides, who was I in the Canadian Rock and Roll pantheon other than the Zamboni driver cleaning up the ice so that the idols of millions (or hundreds in many cases) had a place to skate?; not to mention my lack of interesting anecdotal evidence of debauchery to rival those of Godovitz’s.  I’m sure people would much rather read the sordid tales from Canadian Uber-manager Bruce Allen or Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger. But during a random email conversation about this subject with Garwood Wallace – an old cohort of mine who not only worked parallel to me, briefly, at Sam The Record Man’s head office at 347 Yonge Street, but whose own recordings ended up on my label – made a very convincing argument that the book should be written:

“If I were you I wouldn’t discount the ‘Feisty Independent Reissue Label Standing Alone and Sustaining the Flame of Classic CanRock In The Face Of Withering Corporate Complacency’ angle so quickly. The premise isn’t whether or not you’ve achieved Mainstream Success; it’s more “the Little Label That Could” notion and I think most people would find the fact that you managed to stay afloat for all that time, WITHOUT a huge hit, very interesting and worth a look. And in the end, making a reasonable go of it in the face of extremely oppressive odds is also a VERY Canadian thing.”

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Canadian I am. And we were. Defiantly so. More than 170 releases carried the Bullseye name since its inception in 1985 and less than a dozen were artists NOT from Canada. Ironically, my business partner during the glory years was an American named Jim Hoeck who happened to be a fan of Canadian act Klaatu. But regardless, the Bullseye Records story – and my co-existing professional life – was a Canadian success story. A small scale, maple syrup covered, toque wearing, cottage industry underdog success story. Alas, it’s also a music story similar to so many others; as long-standing adopted Canadian singer/songwriter Bob Segarini once said: “…the names and the places might change, but the stories are essentially the same.” Of course, that was in reference to why he has never written his autobiography, but the sentiment still holds true. How does one tell a familiar story with a new or unique outlook?

Hall of Fame.

To get to the core of the content question, it will be necessary to look at Bullseye’s contributions to Canadian music in relation to those around it. I am not driven enough by ego to think I had much to do with the success of the artists whom I was, through luck and/or hard work, able to share so many experiences with, but I do have a healthy perspective on what my role was in keeping them in the lifestyles to which they had become accustomed to. And let’s be clear: I also had staff that made me look good. Suffice it to say, the history of Canadian music can be told through the stories that ran parallel and frequently converged with those of the label. The ongoing history of Canadian Classic Rock was, for awhile, being fed to the world through our filtering system and ultimately shaping our story and that of the artists; and we were not only observing the re-emergence of Canada’s aging star class, but we were co-authors in a new chapter of its living, musical history. So what becomes unique about this book is that it will recount important, selected scenes from a larger, multi-act narrative across the nation.

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If nothing else, Bullseye added longevity to the recording life expectancy and public persona of musicians whose careers were waning, and in some instances, already dead; the resurrection of a genre is no mean feat and I’m glad we were there, along with other like-minded companies such as Peter Burnside’s Pacemaker Entertainment and Ray Paul Klimek’s US label Permanent Press Recordings to fly the flag and bring back the music and the personality that we still call Canadian Classic Rock.
I’ll be knitting together the past with the present, like the record label itself, to become a device that I hope tells a compelling story or two hundred.

And as Canadian music biographer, and culture hall monitor, Gary Pig Gold once said to me: “Those who live in the past are doomed to re-issue it!” Stay tune to these pages.
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 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released 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’ is now available at Amazon.com 

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