Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ten Covers for Bruce Springsteen to Play in Winnipeg

 (Image from the crucial Springsteen2Wpg)

Bruce Springsteen is gonna play Winnipeg, Manitoba...eventually! After all, we've got a big new stadium, a fanatic fan-base and a musical history he can plunder for all those ingenious locally-themed covers he's been doing on the High Hopes Tour. A partial list of Springsteen's recent live covers would include: AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" in Adelaide, INXS' "Don't Change" in Sydney, The Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" in Brisbane, Lorde's "Royals" in Aukland and (with a slight twist) The Specials' "Free Nelson Mandela" in South Africa. I've ranked the potential Winnipeg covers on my list from least to most likely and have tried to strike a balance between my own personal favourites and the de rigeur local classics. For more cultural awesomeness (music, comics, film, politics etc.)

10.    Personality Crisis "Twilight's Last Gleaming" (1983)
Certainly a million to one shot, this old-school punk band with rock chops dominated Winnipeg's scene in the early 80's thanks in no small part to the antics of barrel-voiced wildman Mitch Funk, who Springsteen would surely admire if he knew of him. Plus, doesn't "Twilight's Last Gleaming" just sound like a Springsteen song title already?

9.    Terry Jacks "Season in the Sun" (1974)
Okay, Bruce (and half of the world) may still harbour mixed feelings about this sentimental song from one of Winnipeg's less celebrated pop figures but it has that epic grandeur in both the chorus and the story-line that would make it fit right into Springsteen's wheelhouse.

8.     Propagandhi "I Was a Pre-Teen McCarthyist" (1996)
Another daringly unlikely choice would be for Bruce to cover a song from the Winnipeg's political thrash lords, whose riffy song about father-son relationships and U.S. imperialism (that's just how those boys roll) is pretty catchy and would be given a twist by that Springsteen intensity.

7.    Greg Macpherson "Churchill" (1999)
While intense rocker Macpherson doesn't hide his adoration of Springsteen, his own brand of music is strikingly singular and Springsteen could do a fantastic Nebraska-esque take on this train ballad of the frozen North.

6.    Bachman Turner Overdrive "Roll on Down the Highway" (1974)
Thematically and musically this chestnut hits all the Springsteen buttons and would have the added benefit of not being "Takin' Care of Business", which at this point has just become part of the musical furniture.

5.    Jeffrey Hatcher "(Born to Be) Riding Only Down" (1995)
Hatcher is just the kind of tenacious, gifted rock n' roll lifer (like Willie Nile, Southside Johnny or Jesse Malin) that Springsteen admires and invites to share his stage. This soaring kiss-off song by The Blue Shadows (with Billy Cowsill of The Cowsills) would be electrifying in a Bruce-E-Street context.

4.    Burton Cummings "Stand Tall" (1976)
Another slightly purple bit of melodic melodrama from the seventies that would get pumped up to gargantuan-proportion by the man and his band.

3.   The Weakerthans "Anchorless"  (1998)
Bruce keeps his ear close to the ground, music-wise, so I suspect he's aware of John K. Sampson & co.'s wordy folk-rock. While the most known entry in the Weakerthans' catalog would be "One Great City", that song's "I Hate Winnipeg" chorus would make it a tough sell for a visitor, even for one of Bruce's stature. "Anchorless", on the other hand a finely-detailed song about the "small towns that we live and die in" would speak very directly to experiences shared by performer and audience.

2.    The Guess Who "Share the Land" (1970) or "Shakin' All Over" (1965)
When it comes to Winnipeg's most famous musical export it's a toss up* between "Shakin' All Over" (already a cover) which would indulge Springsteen's love of early sixties rock that he can stretch out into long vamps and "Share the Land" which plays to his love of social justice mixed with a good tune. Your call, Mr. Springsteen, your call.
*"American Woman" is not only too obvious, it's brand of anti-Americanism doesn't jibe with Springsteen's more subdued criticism of his homeland.

1.    Neil Young "Long May You Run"
There's no question that "Heart of Gold" would produce a rapturous response and be a fantastic choice (as would other Young songs including ones Bruce and Neil have sung together like "Helpless" and "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World"), but "Long May You Run' has those Bruce motifs of running and remembering that would make for an epic show-closer! Plus, Springsteen must be aware that when Bob Dylan came to town he headed straight over to Neil's first rockin' abode as soon as his show was done.  Bruce, let me just say that I guarantee you that we will lead a goddamn parade to Neil's house with you as the Grand Marshal if that's what it takes to get you to visit our One Great City.

So, those versed in Springsteen and Manitoba history, what do you make of these choices? Were there stunning choices that were missed?  Let us know in the COMMENTS section!

Dubious Suggestions: Fred Penner "The Cat Came Back", since even bad ideas, like Springsteen doing a beloved kids song, can make for good entertainment, The Crash Test Dummies "Superman's Song" who's solemn lament for the original superhero would fit Springsteen's vocal and narrative range nicely and Venetian Snares "Winnipeg is a Frozen Shithole" the longest of the long-shots for many, many reasons which are none too hard to discern.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed the World by Robbie Robertson

Legends, Icons & Rebels is a hard book to classify. It works as kids' guide to rock n' roll, as a gorgeous hardcover coffee table book on music history, as an art book, as a compilation album with massive liner notes or just a refresher course on the musical hell-raisers of the twentieth century! As he and his group, The Band, did in his the legendary film The Last Waltz, Robertson and his co-conspirators bring us a parade of musical legends that encompass a huge swath of music history. Unlike that Martin Scorsese directed documentary, here Robertson really sticks clearly to his curatorial role, only offering a single vignette that begins each entry.
Continue reading my review HERE

Sunday, February 2, 2014

R.I.P. Phillip Seymour Hoffman: 1967-2014

There were a lot of amazing roles that Phillip Seymour Hoffman inhabated but it was his channeling of the late, great Lester Bangs in Almost Famous that endears him to music nerds the world over!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Beyond the Maypole Documentary ft. Billy Bragg, Oyster Band and more

In this documentary the late Biggie Tembo (of Zimbabwean band The Bhundu Boys) does a fascinating inversion of the staid reporter goes to a strange land to investigate its traditional music trope. In "darkest England", Tembo reports on the still-earnest but creatively vibrant English folk scene of the mid-eighties featuring The Barely Works, Kathryn Tickell, Billy Bragg, The Oyserband, Robb Johnson and more besides.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Ten Comics/Graphic Novels of 2013 Pt. 2

As I said for Part One (see HERE): I read a lot of comics this year, stuff from all over the history of the form. As a result, I certainly didn't read any significant fraction of the year's new material. Here, comics differ from music, my usual beat; no music critic has covered a significant percentage of 2013's releases but some comic critics probably have. So, this list is by no means a definitive run-down of all the essential sequential art but just a heavily biased look at some good work that arrived this calendar year. My biases are; I'm writer-centric but am drawn to artists with a strong individual style, I'm a Marvel-ite but think Image is on fire of late, I think less of DC but some of the best older stuff I red this year was from DC and Vertigo. Oh, and I like a series with a sense of humour but dark undertones. My final caveat is that I read more trade paperbacks than individual issues, so a few things here may have been published in single-issue form in 2012 but it's TPB came out this year. For more cultural awesomeness (music, comics, film, politics etc.)

11) Afterlife with Archie by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla (Archie Comics)

A shocking idea executed with just the right amount of creepiness due to the perfect teaming of Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla.

10) Something Terrible by Dean Trippe (Web-comic)
A poignant-as-hell comic about child abuse that Trippe needed to write but we also needed to read.

9) Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh (Simon and Schuster)
Brosh's web-comic has made the jump to the Big Leagues without losing any of its charm, humour or sadness.

8) Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
Not only is this brilliant and beautiful domestic sci-fi story on everyone's Best of the Year list but I'm wary of anybody who'd leave it off theirs!

7) Tales Designed to Thrizzle V. 2 by Michael Kupperman (Fantagraphics Books)
Back in the eighties we called this strangley smart, randomly obscure and non-sequitur-ious style of cartooning at which Kupperman ex-cels, "college humour" now that that's the name of a run-of-the-mill frat-video site we'll just call it "Thrizzly Humour".

6)  Captain America by Rick Remender, John Romita, Carlos Pacheco (Marvel Comics
It sucks following up a defining run like Ed Brubaker's, a version of the character so definitive that the second Captain America film is already adapting it. So Rick Remender decided, with little fanfare, to banish Cap to an extremely hostile dimension and then gave him a kid to take care of. Instead of getting sappy or unbelievable, it turned the title into the comic book version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

5) It Came! by Dan Boultwood (Titan Comics)
It's Tim Burton's Ed Wood film, Alan Moore's 1963 comic, every MST3K commentary and that Monty Python sketch where the pilots talk in outrageous WWII slang all mashed together! If you missed this, as many did, do us all a favour and BUY IT NOW!!!

4) Goddamn This War by Tardi and Jean-Pierre Varney (Fantagraphics Books)
A sequel every bit as brutal and every bit as necessary as "It Was a War of the Trenches".

3) Todd the Ugliest Kid on Earth by Ken Kristensen and M.K. Perker (Image Comics)
Heinous and hilarious, satirical and snide, this twisted comic that didn't really hit its demented stride till it became an ongoing series.

2) Hawkeye by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Francesco Francavilla (Marvel Comics)
This is a superhero comic, one part of a massively successful big-budget franchise, done in a lo-fi indie style. It's a futzing great concept and it's executed perfectly, bro.

1) March by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions)
March threatened to be dry, history but instead it resurrects an era - the end of Jim Crow - in all its beauty and all its ugliness.

Honorable mentions
FF by Matt Fraction, Lee and Mike Allred  (Marvel Comics), Manhattan Projects by Jonathon Hickman (Image Comics), Daredevil* by Mark Waid and Javiar Rodriguez + Daredevil Dark Knights 1-3 (Marvel Comics), Sheltered by Johnnie Christmas and Ed Brisson (Image Comics), Velvet (Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting (Image Comics). Also thanks to Peanuts (Boom Studios) and Bongo Comics in general for always giving my kids something to read (even Sergio Aragones!)

* I'm not even into the 2013 part of the series yet but I now it stays good.