Archive for the ‘90s Music’ Category

I’ve always said that U2 was my first favourite band of all time, and that held true for a very very long time. Everything they created was gold, and it’s because of them, rock ‘n roll became a part of me. I had a carefully curated 22-track mixtape of my favourite U2 songs, which I listened to on repeat for all of high school. I once ran into Bono on the street, and nearly fainted. I quoted them in my high school yearbook. The first song I ever learned on guitar was “One.” That’s how huge they were in my life.

 

However, as of late, I’ve also said, with the exception of a couple of tracks, everything they did after 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind was forgettable; painful even. They’d lost their musical focus, and tried to impress with showmanship instead of musicianship (360 stage, anyone?) I wanted to keep loving them, but they’d evolved into something I couldn’t admire anymore – they’d lost their way and I longed for who they were, not who they’d become. I felt cheated, and foolish.

 

When I saw them live back in 2015 for the Innocence + Experience Tour, I announced with certainty (as I had a few times before,) that I refused to witness another subpar performance. I was done with them for good. How much can a person take? When they announced their Joshua Tree Anniversary Tour, I stood strong. I didn’t sign up for the presale. I didn’t even want to check availability on Ticketmaster or StubHub. I had given them enough chances over the years, and they continued to fall short. I stood by my decision for months and months, never wavering.

 

But as fate would have it, the day of the show, a ticket came my way. So there we sat in our over-priced seats at the SkyDome, on a ridiculously humid summer evening, with full knowledge that the acoustics weren’t going to be great in such a large venue. Our seats, like most, were far from the action. After way too much waiting/sweating, Larry Mullen Jr. strut across the stage, straight towards his drums. In one simple flick of the wrist, I recognized “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Suffice it to say, they had me at “hello.”

 

They continued to sweep me off my feet with the nostalgia, before segueing into performing the entire Joshua Tree album, start to finish, in the same order as they appeared on the album. I know this, because that’s how I used to listen to the album (clearly before becoming aware of the “Shuffle” feature.) I’d always play tracks 1-3, skip 4, then play 5-7, skip 8-11, then start back at 1.

 

As much as I resisted, I fell for them all over again. They weren’t being theatricalor overdramatic – more their old selves. The screen behind them mostly featured nature scenes as backdrops to their tracks. Was it their best show? No. Some of the performances lacked some umph, and there were definitely too many prolonged lulls. But they reminded me why I – and everyone else – loved them so much all those years ago; they reminded us what U2 was all about, something I thought they’d forgotten.

 

No matter how much your first love changes over time, no matter what directions you go in life, what keeps drawing you back isn’t the person themselves, but the memories that went with them. This show brought back a lot of memories, and I’m glad I got see them live. But I swear: this time was really the last time.

 

I remember a time when the MuchMusic Video Awards (aka MMVAs) were everything. They were surrounded by so much hype, and because they shut down Queen St. and performed in parking lots, it made this awards show young, cool, and quirky. Over the years though, the intensity of the frenzy diminished, mostly because MuchMusic stopped really being about music. The MMVAs – now called iHeartRadio MMVAs – are coming up this weekend, so I thought I’d take a look at some of my favourite MuchMusic memories.

5 Intimate & Interactive

A few hours dedicated to interviewing a particular musician, and also having them perform live, while surrounded by their fans in the MuchMusic studio. VJs would take on hosting duties, and find out things like which members of the Backstreet Boys wore boxers, and which ones wore briefs. Or what was Avril Lavigne’s deal with skater boys? The performances were often more stripped-down, cozier versions of original tracks, making the musicians more accessible to fans, who also had the opportunity to engage with their idols.

 

4 Big Shiny Tunes

The be-all and end-all of compilation albums. If you didn’t own either BST1 (released in 1996) or BST2, we definitely were not friends. They had all the best rock/alternative tracks of the year. It wasn’t always the big names either; they also included the likes of Poe, Wide Mouth Mason and Placebo. I tapped out after the 2nd volume, but apparently they went all the way up to 14 (2009.) If you want to impress anyone with 90s music knowledge, check them out.

 

3 The VJs

I used to watch hours and hours of MM after school, so I felt like I personally knew all the VJs. I’m not talking about the ones that are still on TV like, Devon Soltendieck, Rick (the “temp”) Campanelli, or even Geroge Stroumboulopoulos. I’m talking about the ones that truly defined the classic MM VJ.  Like Bill Welychka. He had 90s Eddie Vedder hair (that he eventually cut, making him unrecognizable,) and wore plaid shirts. Master T: the dreadlocked rap connoisseur. Sook-Yin Lee, aka the Asian hipster, before Asian hipster was even a thing. Being a MuchMusic VJ was my dream job for a very long time. Too bad it never worked out.

 

2 Speaker’s Corner

This was such a staple of the downtown Toronto community. A video booth where you could rant and rave about whatever you wanted. You could talk, sing, scream, complain, support, encourage, whatever came to your mind, no matter your mood. It was such a Toronto thing, and the chosen ones’ videos would get broadcast on TV. More often than not, at strange hours of the day, but sometimes, in those strange hours, Speaker’s Corner was exactly what was needed.

 

1 Electric Circus

Doesn’t matter what music you were into, everyone wanted to be on Electric Circus. A full out dance party/rave in the MM studios, hosted by none other than the Monika Deol. There were so many theatrics going on, because everything was being broadcast on TV. Fluorescent make up, arms flailing with glow sticks in hand; 10″ heels, so much pleather, tube tops, and shiny silver pants. And of course the gyrations, bare midriffs, and indoor sunglasses. My favourite though, were all the fame chasers who dance so hard when the camera came near them, as though they were about to be discovered. What an iconic show.

 

Oh MuchMusic, I miss you.

 

Chris Cornell first invaded my ears back in the early 90s as frontman of Soundgarden – a Seattle band front and centre in the grunge music scene. Those formative years wouldn’t have been the same without that distinctive voice, his voice. Cornell’s vocals were what set them apart from the plethora of grunge bands trying to make it big at the time. His ability to hit such high octaves with perfect control, but also be raw and loud, gave him such versatility, and a sound that will always truly be his own (start video at 0:19) 

In Soundgarden’s early days, even before they “made it big” with 1994’s Superunknown, Cornell lived with musician Andrew Wood, of the band Mother Love Bone. After Wood died of a heroin overdose in 1990, Cornell got together with Wood’s bandmates, and wrote and produced a tribute album, under the name Temple of the Dog. It also featured backing vocals of newcomer Eddie (of yet-to-be-formed Pearl Jam.) The whole idea behind this entire project was friendship, so it’s no surprise I’ve made long-lasting friendships based on a mutual love for this powerful, anthemic track.

Soundgarden inevitably broke up in 1997, like the rest of the grunge bands. Cornell decided to kick off a solo career with 1999’s Euphoria Morning, which fared pretty well. As a solo artist, he also performed covers, appeared on soundtracks, and even had one of his albums produced by Timbaland (which did not fare well with his fans.) Point is, he was always experimenting, always making music, always in our ears. This track appeared in the movie Great Expectations – the one with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was the best part of the movie, and revealed a much softer Cornell, reaffirming that he really was capable of anything.

If Cornell didn’t have enough going on already, in 2001 he joined ex-members of rock-metal band Rage Against the Machine, to form Audioslave. A hard rock band, similar in many ways to Soundgarden, just less grunge and more aggression. They were loud, but also musical. By this time, I was in University, a completely different phase in my life. But there he was – still ringing in my ears. This track is so incredibly haunting and proof that no matter how much noise was going on, Cornell’s voice could always rise above, and take the whole thing to another level.

I had the privilege of seeing Cornell play live 3 three times. Once as a solo act at a small venue in Hamilton. I drove through a snowstorm, in pitch black just to get there, and it was worth every second. The 2nd time was with Soundgarden on their reunion tour at an outdoor venue; when the sky turned gray, and they went into “Fell on Black Days,” the rain didn’t even matter. Lastly, a solo acoustic show at Massey Hall: just him, his guitar and a lot of incredible music. I went to this show all by myself, because I couldn’t miss this opportunity. I had goosebumps the entire time, and never felt I was there alone – Cornell, as usual, was right there.

There was never a time in my musical life that Cornell wasn’t doing something, or part of something. Everything he got involved with, somehow became a part of my life. A memory, a mood, a phase. It was comforting to know, no matter what he was doing, it would always resonate with me. When he performed live as a solo artist, the most remarkable thing was not only did fans get to see Cornell, but also Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave. So when Chris Cornell passed away on May 17th, not only was he gone, but he also took Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and Audioslave with him. As a music fan, that’s a whole lot of music to mourn.