This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Honourable Mention Song #24: Have Not Been The Same by Slow (as Chosen for Ian Jack).
So, you are out and about, driving merrily along, when you happen to pass a local church hall or community centre with a sign out front that says something like, “Ladies Auxiliary Bake Sale Today!!!”…..what do you do? Well, if you are like me, you safely apply your brakes, pull into their parking lot and head on inside. Why? Because one of the truisms of my life so far is that anywhere little white-haired Grandmothers are making meals or baking pies, there is bound to be good eating going on inside! So, in I go. Always. Every time.
Ironically enough, I drive by fast food and chain restaurants every day without getting the same feeling. It is not like simply having access to food is my motivating factor. What it is, really, is having access to a certain kind of food that is lovingly made, by the very people whose name is on the sign out front. For the most part, community groups and, by extension, most “Mom and Pop”-type food stores, put a lot into the food they serve because their food represents who they are, as real people. That isn’t the same as it is for minimum wage earners who ask if you want fries with your burger. For them, the experience of preparing food for others is a job….a way to make the money needed to live the lives they seek to live. It is not an experience that is often filled with passion and pride, as if the server’s reputation is connected with the assembly-line burgers being kept warm under heat lamps. No, for me, home-made is best. And, if I can find that home-made taste experience, out in the real world, that is where I will spend my money every time.
The same rule applies to my taste in music. I have never been an off-the-rack Pop follower. Over the course of this countdown, I have noticed trends in how many of you respond to the songs I post. Most of you are consistently willing to “Like” or “Love” almost anything I write but, some of the songs I like the most….Radiohead, Bjork, Kate Bush, DJ Shadow, etc., have been the posts that have garnered the fewest kindhearted responses. That is not a criticism of you but more, an acknowledgement that my tastes tend to not be the same as most people’s tastes in music. For this reason, over the course of my entire music-loving life, I have had to fight to find access to the types of music that mean the most to me. Like the grey-haired ladies making pies in the church hall, I tend to gravitate toward music that doesn’t follow formulas and isn’t being made with commercial considerations at the forefront of the creative process. I guess you could say, I tend to be drawn to Alternative and Indie music most of all. That is not everyone’s cup of tea but, it works for me. So, this post, more than anything else, is about how I have found the music that has held the most meaning in my life and why it hasn’t been from commercial radio. It is, also, about a kindred spirit that I didn’t really even know that I had until doing this project…..Mr. Ian Jack, for whom this post is dedicated.
One of the hobby horses I have ridden for awhile is that commercial radio bugs me. What it is that bugs me exactly is how most commercial radio stations are more concerned with advertising and marketing than they are about the Art of making music. One of the ways you can tell this is by their lack of involvement in the local Arts scene in the communities in which they broadcast. The second thing is by how they allocate their advertising and promotional dollars toward artists who just happen to be touring in the area and/or have just released new work that is in need of promotion. In my own experience working in radio for the short time that I did, commercial radio operates on a continuous cycle of promoting the same popular acts, over and over again, ad nauseam. To me, commercial radio is like Walmart or McDonalds…..sure, I can get things that are useful there but, it is not really the quality of the experience I am really looking for. So, I have had to find ways to find artists and bands who create, first and foremost, for the sake of the Art they are making.
I have been like this forever and, truth be told, I didn’t know I was like this until one evening, waaaaaaay back in the early 1980s, when I discovered a programme on CBC Radio that was airing all the way in the commercial dead zone of midnight. That show was called, “Brave New Waves”. It was hosted, at that time, by a lady named Augusta LaPaix. Back in those days, I used to enjoy winding down from my day by listening to music in the dark, after everyone else had gone to bed. By the time that happened, it was usually late at night. So, on one of those late nights, I happened to tune the radio dial, in search of anything interesting, headphones on, when suddenly, I heard music I had never heard before. It was jangly and fast and loud and was speaking about all sorts of things that I didn’t normally hear in the Top 40 music that I was used to listening to. It was music by bands like The Spoons, when they were just starting out….King Cobb Steelie, Eric’s Trip, Mary Margaret O’Hara and many more. Most of the artists or bands were completely unknown to me. My first time hearing them was when Augusta LaPaix decided to spin their record. Before I knew it, I was tuning in to “Brave New Waves” as often as I could manage. The logical next step in my music listening evolution was in trying to find some of the music by these artists and bands…….that is when I began to realize that commercial radio was not for me. To this day, I still cannot remember a time when I have tuned into CHUM-FM….Toronto’s big Top40 station…..and heard them play a Sloan song or The Skydiggers or Jane Siberry. It just never happens. So, I turned away from stations like that and found other sources where I could find new music, indie music, alternative music.
As I was discovering and loving “Brave New Waves”, I was, also, discovering Much Music (Canada’s version of MTV, for my American readers). In the early 1980s, Much Music had lots of air time to fill and were quite open to airing just about anything remotely appropriate by any Canadian artist or band. It was via Much Music that I discovered the Rheostatics, The Pursuit of Happiness and, even, a very young band called Barenaked Ladies, who got their big break by appearing on a CITY-TV project called “Speaker’s Corner”. Many Canadian artists and bands got their first national exposure via the VJs on Much Music and, by extension, I got to hear interesting bands that way, too.
Nowadays, I tend to spend much of my time consuming whatever YouTube algorithms send my way. Because I actively search out Independent music online, streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, along with platforms such as YouTube, tend to push me toward newer content from artists such as Idles (who were the whole reason I ever found out about Internet streaming radio station, KEXP, in the first place, let alone their list of the Top 500 songs of all-time, that inspired our very own countdown journey). Because of the algorithms I create online, I have come to know singers such as Aurora, who is this generation’s Bjork, in my mind. What a talent! I am lucky to have found her, and all of the like-minded, Art-first musicians I tend to be drawn towards.
This brings me back to my friend, Ian Jack. Ian is an elementary school teacher in my area. I worked with his wife, Cara, when I was still teaching. My wife, Keri, taught Ian and Cara’s eldest son. So, we all know each other, professionally and personally, in ways that have nothing to do with music. Fast forward a few years, another way I have gotten to know more about the music I like….and that is so hard to find on commercial radio…..is via books. One of my favourite music authors is a man named Michael Barclay. I was introduced to his writing by way of the fabulous book about The Tragically Hip called, “Never Ending Present”. Once I finished that book, I looked for other work by Barclay and, lo and behold, what did I find but a book entitled, “Have Not Been The Same” by Barclay and, my pal, Ian Jack! Up until that point, Had never read “Ian’s book” but, I have now and it was like seeing my own life story told by someone else. So many of the stories told in this book correlate directly to my love of Alternative music, my experiences with “Brave New Waves” and the early days of “Much Music” and how those times laid the groundwork for much of what has come to pass as a Canadian music scene today.
The title of Ian’s book is the title of a song by a mid 1980’s punkish band called, Slow. Slow were a rather notorious band, as it turned out due to cases of indecent exposure in BC, as well as, problems with drugs and alcohol. But, when you see the video for the song, Have Not Been the Same” you are going to see Grunge before Grunge became a thing. Slow had a lot of potential to be “the next big thing” in music circles but, being the next big thing was never what they were about. That they didn’t survive as a band says a lot about them but, so does the fact that many of the original members are still making music today in bands that nobody hears unless they catch them in a small town bar or opening a festival in a farmer’s field somewhere for the just-after-lunch crowd. Sometimes, when you pour yourself into the songs you create, it is a recipe for the best music of all….even if it doesn’t chart and only a handful of people ever hear it. You made it. It is part of you. And, if something that is part of you can become part of someone else’s life then, you have succeeded in making good Art.
The link to the video for “Have Not Been the Same” by Slow, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Slow, can be found here.
If you wish to order the book, Have Not Been the Same” by Michael Barclay, Ian Jack and Jason Schneider, contact your local, independent bookstore. That’s where I got my copy.