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60 Mind-Blowing Facts in 60 Minutes: 4th Edition

12.19.2018 - By Ongoing History of New Music

EPISODE DESCRIPTION

One of the occupational hazards of my job is I run across all kinds of facts, bits of data, and pieces of knowledge that don’t have any immediate practical application… For example, I ran across this piece of royal etiquette…the British royals are forbidden to play “monopoly”—as in the board game… I have no idea why, but this is apparently a hard and fast rule… If you have a cat, you know all about hairballs…the technical term for one of those is a “bezoar”… Still with animals, there’s a psychological disorder called “Boanthropy”…this is when a person believes they are a cow and tries to live their lives accordingly… What do you think the most popular item sold at Wal-Mart is?...bananas…Wal-Mart sells more bananas than anything else in its inventory… Astronauts cannot burp is space…that’s because the lack of gravity means all the gases in your stomach get mixed with the liquids and the solids instead of separating out…if you tried to burp, everything would come up at the same time…so where do gastric gases go?...out the other end… And before you ask, no you cannot use that to propel yourself through the international space station…Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield tried that and he reports that the thrust produced isn’t enough to produce the requisite Newtonian shift in vector… I have more, but I think you get the idea…this brings me to the topic of this program…when researching “ongoing history” episodes and my blog, I always come across pieces of information that are, if not useless, very close to being so… But much of this stuff is just too weird, too fascinating, too fun to ignore…so once a year, it has become my habit to conduct a big data dump of this information…what you do with this what I’m about to tell you is completely up to you…. This is the annual show I called “60 mind-blowing facts about music in 60 minutes”….

MORE FROM THIS SHOW

Rise and Fall of the CD

On the afternoon of October 1, 1982, Sony introduced a new home stereo gizmo… it was the world’s first compact disc player… they called it the CDP-101… Weird name, but if you take it apart, it makes sense…”CDP” stands for “compact disc player…and “101” is binary notation for the number 5…that’s because the head of the audio division considered this first model to be in the middle of Sony’s future lineup of cd players…so “5” on a scale of one to ten, I guess… Sony had been working on compact disc technology with a Dutch company called Philips for a number of years, which released their own machine, the cd100, about a month later… Compact disc technology was rolled out worldwide in march 1983…and for the next seventeen years, the recorded music industry experienced a boom unlike it had ever seen before…music fans were convinced to buy all their favourite albums again…and as the popularity of vinyl and cassettes waned, the cd became the currency of the realm… And lo, it was good…insane amounts of money were made year after year after year… But nothing lasts forever and in about 2000, the bloom started to come off the cd rose…and now, cd sales are in a total free-fall as streaming becomes the way most people access music… The compact disc isn’t dead yet, but it’s never going to be the juggernaut it once was…what happened?...and how?...it’s actually a fascinating story… This is the rise and fall of the CD…

05.15.2019
05.08.2019

Music Industry Glossary: Part 2

Every industry has its own language…think about what it’s like to be a doctor and all the terms and phrases you must learn if you’re going to communicate with your patients and other medical professionals…what’s the difference between and otolanryingolist and a nephrologist?...iatrogenic and idiopathic?...hypotension and hypertension?... What if you’re working in the world of finance?…you need to know about things like “shorts” and “yield curves” and my favourite, “ebidta”—earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization… Or maybe you’re a coder…think of all the jargon you use when you’re working on a project… I have a list of coder slang in front of me…I’m told these are real terms used in that world… “rubber ducking is a discussion with other engineers to solve a problem…a “jimmy” is a new and clueless new member of the team…and a “hydra” is a bug that can’t be fixed because every time you try something, two or more new bugs pop up… So you see what I’m saying about jargon and a language created by the people who work in a certain area… This applies to the music industry…and if you’re not familiar with the terms that are always thrown about, you might excluded, out of the loop, or a little dumb… I’ll say it again: that’s wrong…and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask what some of these terms mean…that’s brings us to part two of our music industry glossary…

05.01.2019
04.29.2019

Music Industry Glossary: Part 1

I’m really bad with jargon…I hate it…jargon is by its very nature exclusive…if you don’t know the language, don’t know the codes, don’t know the usage rules, then you’re locked out of the discussion… I remember one financial guy who wanted to talk to me about a retirement savings plan…and his schpiel went something like this: “When it comes to diversification of your asset classes, consider taking out some warrants on pink sheet stocks on the vix, backing them up with shorts on fang stocks for a few months before rebalancing your portfolio through dollar-cost averaging”…I have no idea what I just said… Now let’s switch to music…if you do any exploring of how the music business works, you inevitably run into words that seem important, but you don’t know what they mean…you could ask, but then it might show that you’re, err, lacking in knowledge… “Newbie!...ignoramus!...rookie!”…no one wants that, so you just keep it to yourself…no one wants to be made fun of…and if someone does deign to explain things to you, there’s always the risk that they’ll be condescending…so you say to yourself “I’ll figure it out…eventually…I hope”… But that’s not right…music should be for everyone…if you’re interested in how things work with the recorded music industry, your curiosity should be rewarded…and that’s what we’re going to do right now…this is an audio glossary of music industry terms…and once we’re done, you’ll be able to converse with the best of them…

04.23.2019
04.21.2019
04.17.2019
04.15.2019

Kurt Cobain: 25 Years Later

There was nothing particular special about April 8, 1994…I came to work as usual, saw the usual people, and prepared for my radio show in the usual way…I made note that the Toronto Blue Jays were playing a sold-out home game…one of the stories in the news was that American troops were upset about a smoking ban that had come into effect on some military bases…that was about it… But at about 1:45—fifteen minutes before airtime—Anita, who was working in the newsroom—popped her into the studio… “Just a heads-up,” she said, “something’s going on in Seattle…it looks like it has something to do with Kurt Cobain”… If I’m honest, most of us were prepared for some bad news…we knew that Kurt had his issues…his health problems…his heroin addiction…his crazy marriage to Courtney Love…the canceled European tour…and, of course, an apparent suicide attempt in a Rome hotel room about a month earlier… Still, all that was abstract, gossip, stories in magazines…but over the next 90 minutes, everything resolved into harsh, terrible, awful, reality… If you were around then, you probably remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news… it was one of those rare, rare moments, the same sort of thing felt with the assassination of John Lennon on Monday, December 8, 1980, and the death of Elvis on Tuesday, August 16, 1977…. Was that really 25 years ago?...yes, it was…if you were there, let’s revisit things…if you weren’t, here’s how dramatic and sad it was…this is Kurt Cobain, 25 years after he died…

04.08.2019
04.03.2019
03.31.2019
03.27.2019
03.25.2019

The 00s Part 5: Technology

Let’s make a list of all the things we did not have on January 1, 2000…ready?...iTunes, iPods, iPhones…YouTube, Facebook, Twitter…Snapchat, Spotify, smartphones… There was no Netflix (at least as we know it now)…no MySpace…no Instagram Well, what didwe have?...dial-up modems…Windows 98 (if you were lucky) or Windows 95 (if you weren’t)…Apple?...still mostly a corporate basket case…even Google was less than 18 months old… If we look at music, we were mad for compact discs…they were selling by the hundreds of millions, ensuring that the music industry was drowning in money… Vinyl?....dead, dead, dead…the only thing that was keeping that format on life support were club djs who still preferred the feel and action of records over CDs in the booth… We had MP3s and we’d begun to trade music files online, but that was still a clunky and frustrating experience for most people—unless you’d discovered this new thing called “Napster” that had been out for about six months… Now fast-forward ten years to December 31, 2009…everyone was getting smartphones…global CD sales had dropped from a high of 26 billion U.S. dollars in 2000 to around 9 billion in 2009 with no end in sight…the number would get much smaller yet… Meanwhile, vinyl was starting to come back…everyone was using digital music files…streaming music services were starting to catch on…and Apple and Google and Facebook were among the most powerful companies in the world… The recorded music industry was in complete disarray, bleeding money, laying people off, dropping artists, and still trying to litigate their way back to their former glory… The first decade of the 21stcentury was an era of massive technological disruption…how did our music adapt?...let’s examine that…this is the oughts, part 5…

03.20.2019
03.14.2019
03.13.2019
03.11.2019

The 00's Part 3: The Return of Rock

In times of crisis, we start to look for a leader, someone who can get us out of trouble…this is a trope of every comic book universe movie and half all the action-adventure stuff… But it’s true…when things are bad, we first look to people with experience, with knowledge, with strength to lead us away from whatever is wrong… There was a lot of this sort of talk among rock fans at the end of the 90s…pop, electronica, and hip-hop had taken over…rock itself had fallen into the doldrums and every fan was hoping, praying that someone or something would come along and inject new life into the genre… And as hopeless as some people felt at the time, sometimes you just gotta be patient…a couple of things inevitably happen when it seems that rock is on the ropes… First, a new generation of young people decide to take matters into their own hands and kick-start things themselves…we saw this with the indie rock revolution that started taking hold in the very late 90s and then exploded for the next decade… Second, trends and cycles in music and demographics inevitably start to work in favour of the music you like…for the previous 50 years, when rock was on the descent, pop was on the ascent—and vice versa…in the early 2000s, it was time for that polar shift in the public’s tastes… And third, sometimes the old guard needs a little time to catch their breath, to take the lay of the land, and to figure out what their next moves should be…and if they do it right, their careers move into a new phase, a new act… This exactly is what happened in the first half of the first decade of the 21stcentury…and the results were amazing…this is the history of the oughts, part 3: the return of rock…

03.06.2019
02.27.2019

The 00's Part 1: The Sad State of Rock

How long should we wait before we write the history of a decade?...we can write things down as they happen, but that’s only the first draft…time has to pass before we can wrap our heads around exactly what happened, what it all meant, and the lasting effects of those ten years… Something that may have appeared to be insignificant at the time turned out to be a really big deal…it was only after many years passed and the ripples from that thing or that event played out do we realize “holy crap!...that was history!”… When it comes to the history of music, it’s often convenient to break things down into decades because that seems to be the natural order of things…music is a great barometer of the life and times of a decade because it’s so intertwined with society: politics, economics, demographics—everything to do with culture…understand the music of a decade and you’ll have a better understanding of what happened during that time… The 50s marked the birth of rock’n’roll…the 60s brought us The Beatles, the rise of the album, and the mega rock festival…in the 70s, we got punk, metal, disco, and rap…the 80s?...techno-pop, hair metal, and the era of classic rock…the 90s were all about grunge, the Lollpalooza generation, Britpop… That takes us to the end of the 20thcentury…and as transformative and disruptive as the 90s were—the Internet, cell phones, sampling—that was only a warm-up for the next ten years…by the time it was over, everything had changed… This is a history that first decade of the 21stcentury, which we’re going to call “the oughts”…this is part 1…

02.20.2019
02.13.2019
02.06.2019
02.04.2019

Arkells - In Their Own Words: Part 1

When you’re in a band, you want to make sure the public record is correct…but you’re often at the mercy of someone else when it comes to creating that record… First, there’s your publicist and anyone at your record label dealing with marketing…they issue bios and press releases where the writer seems to have been paid by the word…they’re paid to fill a page or two in 10-point font, so they revert to lots of flowery language signifying nothing…frankly, I find most official band bios close to useless because they don’t really tell me anything about the band… A site like allmusic.com does better, but often all the writer has to work with are those official bios… Then there’s Wikipedia…it has its drawbacks, but for the most part, Wikipedia entries can be very good because editors incorporate information from a variety of sources, including lots of feature stories and interviews… In my opinion, though, nothing beats getting every member of the band together in a room at the same time and getting them to tell their own story…it’s hard, given the schedules musicians keep, but with a little persistent persuasion, it can be done… So, Wikipedia editors, listen up…if you want to make additions and changes to the entry on Arkells, here’s your chance…this is a conversation between me and all five members of the band…it’s their story, in their own words…start taking notes…here are all the citations you need…

01.30.2019
01.28.2019

Modern Guitar Heroes 2: The Women

It’s been a rough decade for the electric guitar…sales of new instruments have dropped by a third, from 1.5 million globally to around just one million… Why?...generations brought up on electronics are opting out of creating music with traditional instruments like the guitar…instead, they use laptops, iPads, gear like Ableton Live an any number of programmable keyboard devices… Most guitars are being bought and sold by older players…and there are fewer and fewer of them each year… All this has hurt manufacturers like Gibson, who filed for bankruptcy in 2018…it’s hurt music stores, both big and small…it’s hurt music teachers who have fewer students… Sounds dire, right?...maybe…but there’s one bright spot: there has been a steady rise in the number of young women taking up the electric guitar… According to fender, women now make up at least 50% of all the beginner guitar players in North America and the UK…in South East Asia, that number is more like 70%... That’s interesting, given that it wasn’t all that long ago that it was accepted fact that a girl could not play an electric guitar—not as good as a guy, anyway… That attitude abounded through the 70s and 80s…today, that’s no longer the case…the intimidation factor is gone…women are marching right into male-dominated music stores and buying guitars…some take traditional lessons, but others are using online tutorials so they can avoid any hassles and harassment… And most importantly, we’re seeing more female guitar heroes…you no longer have to be a dude to be a guitar role model…and those are the people we’re going to explore on this episode…this is modern guitar heroes: the women…

01.23.2019
01.16.2019
01.14.2019
01.10.2019

What’s with Florence + the Machine?

One of my favourite movie lines of all time comes from a 1982 Peter O’Toole film called “My Favorite Year”… O’Toole plays a movie idol named Alan Swann who is reduced to appearing on a variety tv show of the 1950s… a junior writer named Benji Stone is put in charge of babysitting Swann… “just keep him out of trouble,” his bosses say… Naturally, it doesn’t go well and they have a fight when Swann grows angry when Benji insists on the hero worship…then Benji replies: Whoever you were in those movies, those silly heroes meant a lot to me! what does it matter if it was an illusion? it worked! so don't tell me this is you life-size. I can't use you life-size. I need Alan Swanns as big as I can get them! That’s how a lot of us feel about our heroes… and I include our musical heroes in that number… Music is an escape for us…it’s also a fantasyland populated by exotic creatures who do and say things far, far beyond what we could ever dream of doing… but at the same time, we want these creatures to be at least a little accessible, so we can make that all-important personal connection… It’s a tricky balance…we want heroes and heroines, but we also want to know that they’re real… keep the fantasy but open the door a crack, you know?... And it’s more difficult with some artists than others…how, for example, do you handle like someone like Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine?... much of her success is based on a kooky, quirky, fantastical image, like someone who looks like they just stepped out of a renaissance painting or out of a book of Grimm’s fairytales… And then you learn she’s not a natural redhead…I’m sorry, but she’s not… she’s dark-haired and dyed it as a kid…did that just ruin something for you?... It did?... oh, dear… this could be a rough show for you, then…

01.06.2019
12.31.2018
12.30.2018
12.24.2018

60 Mind-Blowing Facts in 60 Minutes: 4th Edition

One of the occupational hazards of my job is I run across all kinds of facts, bits of data, and pieces of knowledge that don’t have any immediate practical application… For example, I ran across this piece of royal etiquette…the British royals are forbidden to play “monopoly”—as in the board game… I have no idea why, but this is apparently a hard and fast rule… If you have a cat, you know all about hairballs…the technical term for one of those is a “bezoar”… Still with animals, there’s a psychological disorder called “Boanthropy”…this is when a person believes they are a cow and tries to live their lives accordingly… What do you think the most popular item sold at Wal-Mart is?...bananas…Wal-Mart sells more bananas than anything else in its inventory… Astronauts cannot burp is space…that’s because the lack of gravity means all the gases in your stomach get mixed with the liquids and the solids instead of separating out…if you tried to burp, everything would come up at the same time…so where do gastric gases go?...out the other end… And before you ask, no you cannot use that to propel yourself through the international space station…Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield tried that and he reports that the thrust produced isn’t enough to produce the requisite Newtonian shift in vector… I have more, but I think you get the idea…this brings me to the topic of this program…when researching “ongoing history” episodes and my blog, I always come across pieces of information that are, if not useless, very close to being so… But much of this stuff is just too weird, too fascinating, too fun to ignore…so once a year, it has become my habit to conduct a big data dump of this information…what you do with this what I’m about to tell you is completely up to you…. This is the annual show I called “60 mind-blowing facts about music in 60 minutes”….

12.19.2018

Bush: The Post-CD Band Featuring Gavin Rossdale

Once upon a time, not that long ago and in a land not that far away, musicians—not all, but some—could become very, very rich… Their riches came by selling pieces of plastic to those who enjoyed their music…those pieces of plastic were very, very precious because they were this was the only way musicians could distribute recordings of their art and their supply and their price was strictly regulated by the lords of the music industry… Eons earlier, the oracles had foretold that this plastic would come down—but that never seemed to happen…the overlords enjoyed their immense wealth and were loathe to do anything that might jeopardize the power of their kingdoms… Meanwhile, musicians—not all, but some—also reaped huge riches as millions and even tens of millions of people handed over money for the privilege of owning certain pieces of plastic…the musicians never made as much as their overlords, but plenty just the same…and it was good… In fact, it was very good…there were lavish parties, obscene luxuries and plenty of indulgences on a scale unimaginable by the good citizens of the regular world… Yeah, it’s not like that anymore…new artists know this…but what if you are one of those acts who had a taste of the good life—the old record industry—and then had to adjust to the new realities?... Let’s talk to one of those artists—someone who has adjusted to life in the post-cd world…how was it then—and what’s it like now…really…

12.16.2018

Radiohead - A History: Part 3

When you sign your first record deal, it’s usually for around seven albums…theoretically; this is to protect both sides… First, it offers the artist a degree of security…it gives the artist a few records to develop and mature so if they don’t score big with the first album, they’ll a little longer to establish their career and reputation… Second, the label has a chance to see if their investment in this act pays off…the label puts all kinds of money into the artist up front and therefore needs the artist to turn profitable as soon as possible so they can make that money back and start seeing a return… But a record deal is like a marriage…sometimes things go well and everyone lives together happily ever after…and sometimes (and for whatever reason), one party wants out…a divorce is in order… It was this second scenario in which Radiohead found itself at the beginning of 2005…they had fulfilled their end of the bargain to EMI Records: six studio albums, a live album, half a dozen EP’s along with at least four video releases…and now they wanted out… they had no wish to resign with EMI … But were their options?... Option (a): negotiate a killer deal with EMI with the hopes of signing a contract that addressed every single one of their concerts…but EMI was in trouble, the smallest and weakest of the major labels…the internet was killing the company and management didn’t seem to have a clue…it looked like they were determined to drive the label into the ground no matter what they did… Option (b) sign with another major label when it looked like the entire recording industry was melting down, again thanks to rampant piracy and the disruption brought about by the internet...in other words, a contract with another major might be no better than signing with EMI … But then there was option (c):  go it alone and redefine what it would mean to be an “independent artist”…after thinking long and hard about it, Radiohead went with option (c)… Crazy idea…then again…

12.12.2018
12.05.2018
12.03.2018

Radiohead - A History: Part 1

Is it just me or has there been an uptick in the number of one-hit-wonders over the past couple of years?...think about all the hot bands who have had just one good album–or even just one good song–before they’re forgotten... In the old days, a group developed and evolved over a series of albums...three, four, five, six records, even...it was slow and look a lot of patience and a lot of fighting to keep things together, but more often than not, it paid off...look at U2...or REM...or Blur...or Depeche Mode...or Nine Inch Nails... None of these bands was what you’d called immediate, instant, hit-it-out-of-the-park successes...each group was allowed to build a career the old-fashioned way: slowly and carefully...and most importantly, they were allowed to make mistakes along the way... Oh–you know who we missed in that list of bands?...Radiohead... They started slow–really slow...they’ve made a bunch of mistakes...they’ve conducted a lot of experiments–some successful, some failures...but because they’ve stuck together, because they’ve always believed in their mission, and most of all, because they all happen to be exceptional musicians, Radiohead has become one of the most revered, most influential and most analyzed groups in the history of alt-rock… And that’s not all…along the way, they’ve managed to rewrite a lot of the rules about what a band is and isn’t supposed to do… This is the story of Radiohead got to where they are today…

11.28.2018
11.23.2018

Lost CanRock Bands of the 90s: Part 2

Before 1971, there really wasn’t much of a Canadian music industry…sure, there were record labels and recording studios and promoters and agents, but we didn’t have what you’d call a “first-world” industry… Canada was a backwater, a place where the big labels had branch offices…anyone who wanted to make it big had to leave the country, usually for the United States… But then came the Canadian content laws in January 1971…overnight, it became law that Canadian radio stations had to devote 30% of their playlists to Canadian artists…this created an artificial demand for this music which a lot of people screamed bloody murder about… But this demand needed to be serviced, so a modern music industry grew up around it—all the infrastructure required to have a proper domestic scene…that meant more record labels, more recording studios, more promoters, more agents… A domestic star system began to emerge…Canadians started buying more music by Canadian artists…and those artists who didn’t want to bolt for the united states found that they could make a decent living by staying in Canada… It took about 20 years for our music industry to mature into something truly world class…and by the time we got to the 1990s, there was a sense that our best could compete with anyone in the world… That’s when everything exploded…Canadian generation Xers not only embraced the alt-rock that was coming from the States—grunge, industrial, punk, whatever—but also the homegrown stuff…walking into a record store in, say, 1995, meant being faced with racks of Canadian product right up front…and people were mad for it… This is our second half of our remembrance of some great Can-Rock bands of the 90s…

11.20.2018

Lost CanRock Bands of the '90s: Part 1

If you came of age musically in Canada in the 1990s, you’ll remember that it was an extraordinary time…there was this mass embracing of homegrown music…it was part nationalism and part patriotism, but it was also something else… A vast generation of young people simultaneously said, “Canadian music is as good as anything the rest of the world has to offer and we want more of it”…and we got it… More acts were signed to the big labels and made records…radio played those records…MuchMusic ran the videos…there were tours and festivals…record stores stacked this new stuff up front…and over a few short years, a brand new star system emerged… Some of those stars are still with us…Our Lady Peace, Matthew Good, The Barenaked Ladies, Sloan …they’ve all had fruitful mult-decade careers that began in either the very late 80s or early 90s… The Tragically Hip became a juggernaut…Alanis Morissette had the biggest-selling album from female artist of all time…and let’s not forget that a couple of the “Big Shiny Tunes” compilations from MuchMusic—which were heavy on the Can-Con—sold more than a million units just in this country… Like all eras of music, there was attrition as bands came and went, passing into the realm of memories…that’s the music business…there are some long-term survivors, but most of it is evanescent… So what happen to the rest of acts?...did they really break up?...are they still doing stuff?...where are the members of these bands today?... Let’s try to track down some of the CanRock groups of the 90s, part 1…

11.13.2018
11.07.2018
11.01.2018
10.30.2018
10.29.2018

It's A Family Affair

Music is one of those things that can bring families together…and sometimes, that togetherness grows into a business… The BeeGees had the three Gibb brothers…baby brother Andy Gibb was also part of that universe for a while… Then there’s The Beach Boys…the original lineup included Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson and their cousin Mike Love…Murray Wilson—the father of Brian, Dennis, and carl—was their manager…he was terrible at it (in fact, Murray was an all-round disasters for his sons), but at least they were all together…or something like that…three brothers, their father and a cousin… We have The Cowsills…this was a 60s pop group from Rhode island who had a series of hits…six siblings: Bob, Bill, Barry, John, Paul and Susan…they ranged from 8 to 18…and then there was mother Barbra…this arrangement was the inspiration for the TV show “the partridge family”…that’s seven people, which later became eight when Bob’s twin brother Richard joined up for a bit… And we have to talk about the Jackson 5: Michael, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon…when the group left Motown, Jermaine was replaced by randy… So that’s six members of the Jackson 5… then we have Janet, LaToya and Rebbie…that’s nine and everything was run by father Joe Jackson—another abusive disaster…so the count is up to 10… All this got me thinking: are their equivalents in the world of alt-rock?...what are the biggest family affairs the genre has ever seen?...let’s take a look…

10.24.2018
10.22.2018
10.17.2018
10.14.2018