JAIMIE VERNON – MEMORIES FADE

YouthInAsia1 This week marked two important memorial milestones in Rock and Roll History. It was 51 years ago on February 9th that the Beatles walked into the homes of America –and the world – via ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’. The other was the 56th anniversary of the Day the Music Died – with Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper perishing in a plane crash on February 3, 1959 [in a sad coincidence, Holly’s bassist in The Crickets, Joe B. Mauldin passed away on February 7th this year]. I’m of the generation that neither event was contemporaneous to me. I can only measure their importance by the impact crater they left on pop culture…and music specifically.

Ed Sullivan

Those a little older than me cling to these dates like so many Kennedy assassinations or Moon Walks. They knew where they were, what they were eating for breakfast, what they were wearing at the time. With good reason. Buddy Holly and his co-horts paved the way for The Beatles. The Beatles, in turn, paved the way for Rock and Roll forevermore. It’s the prism through which we have viewed all music for more than 50 years. It overshadows all else. That’s, of course, only if you drank the Kool Aid at the time.

Dad_Mom_1959My father was born in 1939. He was 19 ½ when Buddy Holly died. It shook him. Holly, like Elvis, informed his musical tastes. His record collection contained ALL of Holly’s releases – in real time. Not post-plane crash re-issues. Not remixes or remasters. He had those first edition thick brittle vinyl lacquers. He bought the ‘singles’ on 78 RPM.  They are now in my care. He DJ’d school dances and sock hops, house parties and hang-outs. His copy of “Peggy Sue” was worn white. It and “That’ll Be the Day” were the schiznit. It was Canadian Graffiti.

the-beatles-roll-over-beethoven-capitol-sWhen the Beatles stepped on the stage at the Sullivan Theater in 1964, my Dad was 24 ½. He was married, with a kid (me) and working full-time to keep my Mom and me afloat. He had no time for the Beatles. Literally or figuratively. When I first showed an interest in the band at age 13 he looked at their album covers and said, “I remember all of this. Their early stuff was crap. It was just noisy screaming the-beatles-please-mister-postman-capitol‘yeah yeah yeah’ shit. Thankfully, they grew up and learned how to make real music.” This wasn’t some retro-hindsight hate from my Dad. His record collection backs his view. The Canadian pressing of ‘Twist And Shout’ is the only Beatles album he owned. A consolation to my Mom who did like them. But buried deep in his 45 RPM singles collection there are moments of nodding approval from him. The Canadian-only “Roll Over Beethoven/ Please Mister Postman” double A-side, “Ticket To Ride”, “Eleanor Rigby” all on the yellow/orange swirl label. And then, as if the sky opened and he realized The Beatles were now speaking his language, to his adult view of the world – ALL of the 7” Apple releases from “Lady Madonna” through “Let It Be”. He approved of that version of the Beatles. The cynical Lennon, the hipster McCartney.

moon-walkBut for those of us that came after the break-up, we got to see the Beatles in toto as a near finite package bookended by Hamburg and the Apple rooftop. We could assess their work as we would the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare. Viewing the parts as chapters in a bigger picture of the whole. We weren’t swayed by biases in real time or judging them against the rest of the music world’s output as the human condition heaved and mutated around them and because of them; Political assassinations, the Vietnam War, Woodstock, the Summer of Love, the Moon Walk, race riots and The Pill.

Vernon_Penny_LaneNone of those things played into my love of the Beatles. It was pretty black and white. Either you grooved on to their pop confectionary or you didn’t – there was no subtext to make an informed musical choice and so would we cast the only measurement we knew at the time: were they better than The Stones? Were they better than Zeppelin and those who came after including the Beatles as solo artists? Was Beatle Paul better than Wings Paul? Was Beatle Lennon better than Johnyoko Lennon? Was Beatle George better than George The Enlightened? And was Beatle Ringo better than ‘Ringo’ Ringo?

45 years after the break-up it appears our memories are soft. The debates, the analysis, the ringing of hands and gnashing of teeth in defending The Beatle Matrix has been swept up like dust bunnies in our more general collective Love Songsconsciousness and the times we grew up in. I was born in the 1960s, but I’m a child of the 1970s. I’m a post-Beatle baby. My reference to the Beatles is retroactive. I was influenced by what came after them but at this point in my life I make no distinction between the two timelines. The Beatles remain part of those same 1970s memories that include The Bay City Rollers, KISS and Alan O’Day’s “Undercover Angel” – mainly because The Beatles were revived in 1976 and 1977 with some cash-and-carry re-issues at the hands of the ever so greedy Capitol Records. Unlike my father who lived a pre and post Beatles life, The Beatles have always existed in my world.

I have to believe there are others that feel the same. Our memories have always been. Born of real-time experiences and kept alive by pop culture grandfathering. And to that end they are skewed. Happy triggers in today’s Brian Williamsdire times but flawed in that we remember them inaccurately. We’ve become secure in knowing that hearing our favourite song from childhood is a benchmark from a specific date, event or memory. We believe that certain artists were one hit wonders because that hit laid an indelible stamp on our psyche. I was alarmed to find out that, like NBC news anchor Brian Williams, I’ve misremembered things about the soundtrack to my life.

10CC I'm not

A recent revisit to a video about the making of 10CC’s “I’m Not In Love” took me back to 1975. It spent three weeks at #2 in June of that year. Though I would go on to appreciate their other works (especially Godley & Crème’s solo material), I’ve always lamented how unfair it was that they never cracked the Top40 again even with the catchy “Things We Do For Love” in 1976. Well, I was wrong. 10CC weren’t a one hit wonder. “Things We Do For Love” made it to #5 in late January 1977. Like many, I believed the retro version of history that beat “I’m Not In Love” to death with a stick on Gold and Classic Rock radio. “Things We Do For Love” was relegated to also-ran status and informed our incorrect notion that 10CC were one trick ponies. More surprising still was that they cracked the Top40 in America a third time with “People In Love” in 1977.

My world order has been turned on its head. Can I even trust my memories anymore? Have I been so caught up in pop culture that I, too, have been swept up in the tide of generalizing and compartmentalizing of my life and Whitburnspecifically the music from my past? I pride myself in useless musical trivia. I ate it. I slept it. It’s a common talking point amongst my contemporaries. We share similar memories but apparently, they can’t be trusted. They’ve been surreptitiously manipulated and had their edges filed down so they fit easier into our recall Rolodex. To that end, I’ve been working my way through Joel Whitburn’s ‘The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits’ (1992 edition) to re-educate myself. Here are some surprising misconceptions I’ve had to abandon and re-learn.

ANDREW GOLD
The former guitarist for Linda Ronstadt (and son of singing legend Marni Nixon – who was the stunt singing voice for both Natalie Wood and Audrey Hepburn in Hollywood) – is best know for his song “Thank You For Being  A Friend”. Big, massive hit, right? Wrong. The song peaked out at #25 on Billboard in 1978 after only 9 weeks on the chart. His label considered it a charting disappointment after his debut hit, “Lonely Boy”, had charted for 17 weeks and reached #7 in 1977. But we all know “Thank You”. We all sing it. We can recite the words. That’s because we collectively watched Bea Arthur’s show ‘Golden Girls’ where it was the theme song for 8 seasons and 177 episodes. Our first memory of the song was replaced with a new memory. A false memory.

JOE JACKSON
New Wave’s outspoken agitator (he and Elvis Costello were both vying for Asshat Of New Wave at the same time) broke commercially with his debut album ‘Look Sharp’ in January 1979. The album spawned three singles – the most memorable being “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” which reached a respectable #21 on Billboard and #9. This is the song we reference in our mind’s eye when retro radio does their nostalgia weekends. ‘Look Sharp’, the one with the white spats on the cover, invaded everyone’s album collections. But many have forgotten that between that record and his later re-invention doing Big Band/Jazz Jackson was still killing it with pop songs like “I’m A Man” and on 1982’s ‘Night And Day’ album the single “Steppin’ Out” put Joe Jackson in high rotation. The song reached #6 and the follow-up single, the title track, went Top20.

THE ROMANTICS
Early indie success for this Michigan act was built on the back of Bob Segarini’s co-productions (“Tell It To Carrie”) and Bomp Records’ Greg Shaw’s belief in the yet-to-be-defined Power Pop movement. They burned slow and simmered, building a huge following on both sides of the border. The self-titled debut on Nemperor Records generated two brilliant pieces of power pop confection: “When I Look In Your Eyes” and the globe destroying hit “What I Like About You”. Well, er, no as it turns out. The song never cracked the Top40 anywhere except Australia – where it reached #2 in 1980. The song owes its post-humous ubiquity to its branding use in a Budweiser beer ad in the late 1980s. From there it was inserted, as a cheap licensing acquisition, to dozens of K-Tel styled compilations right through the 1990s. When Gold and Classic Rock stations went looking for content in the late 1990s “What I Like About You” fit the bill. Fortunately for The Romantics they had another ace up their sleeve. “Talking In Your Sleep” went to #3 in 1983 and made them MTV darlings. Poison even paid homage:

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.comhttp://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon

2 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON – MEMORIES FADE”

  1. Alec Devine Says:

    Always enjoy reading your……………THOUGHTS

  2. Jim Chisholm Says:

    I enjoyed this one Jamie, if only for the realization that there are some a generation younger than me who have defective memories too. BTW The 10CC Album that really counts me is the earlier one with Do The Wall Street Shuffle and Old Wild Men. The others are great but Sheet Music really deserves better airplay in the “great common memory bank”. Keep ’em coming.

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