Rock snobs

OK, I’ve been sitting on this for a number of days. I’d mentioned we had TiVoed the Strombo/Ron special unveiling the five finalist HNIC anthems. Well, we took a spin through it the other night and it gave us conniptions. I’m usually the one pausing every two sentences to holler back at the screen, but we were both doing this, such was the outrage.

Bob Rock, with long strawberry-blond hair The conceit was not very original and essentially assured us YOU ARE THERE! as the five bewildered finalists met their assigned producer, a 54-year-old ginger troll unironically named Bob Rock. (Yeah, of course I’ve heard of him before. I used to be a music columnist – before the music died, anyway. I’ll get to that in a minute.)

As on reality TV shows, where there just happens to be a TV crew situated inside the house as the host comes knocking, by incredible coïncidence there was full camera coverage as finalists entered Fort Dork and meandered into the recording studio…

…only to discover that, in accordance with contest rules, the Corpse had handed over control of their work to the Svengali and his ProTools-wielding minions, who proceeded to tell the composers what they had meant all along.

Several finalists were visibly shocked at the process and the results, very much including the winner, Colin Oberst, who was suddenly confronted with two bears in kilts shoving bagpipes up his tunage.

— The bagpipe intro has become a signature element of your song, yet you seemed surprised when producer Bob Rock envisioned a Celtic theme.

— Well, it was the first time I had heard that. Lou Pomanti was also one of the producers and the arranger. I think he heard that and put kind of a synth bagpipe intro to it. Then when Bob heard it, it was undeniable [sic]. We all worked together and eventually got the live bagpipes in there. I can’t imagine the song without it now.

(Because you have no way of reverting to your original, Colin! You can’t imagine a different version because you don’t even own your own song anymore. The Corpse can sell a Weird Al ringtone over iTunes if they want and there’s bugger-all you can do about it now.)

My esteemed colleague and I found all five entries overarching, tuneless, listener-fatiguey, second-rate. Hence suitable for Canada. (“The new HNIC theme song is gonna blow, whatever it is.”)

We admitted that the entry by Oberst was the least bad. He’s effortlessly guyish, inexplicably also a music teacher. (A male teacher, an endangered species.)

Was this not rock snobbery taken to the nth degree?

They were wheeling in session musicians from Rush, for fuck sakes. (“Play ‘Subdivisions’!” I exclaimed.) Kim Mitchell, too. Armies fight the last war; coasting rock producers rerecord the music of their youth.

Well, I’m no better there. My musical tastes froze in place a decade and a half ago. If the same thing hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. But I’m not being paid to replace a beloved anthem, lost via bungling, with something more aligned to my own personal tastes.

It’s not that Bob Rock had something oldschool in mind. He’s just too old to know any other school. Hasn’t he managed to notice that pro sports were colonized by very tacky, very high-energy techno a decade and a half ago? (“Y’all ready for this?”) Hasn’t anybody managed to notice that? (Anything else you didn’t notice about sports? Like the fact the NBA isn’t all black anymore? Or the NHL all white?)

Even in Europe they’ve got fans humming the White Stripes’ “Seven-Nation Army” at soccer matches. (Radio segment [MP3].) Wouldn’t that be a step up? Something modern? Couldn’t we just license “The Hardest Button to Button” and call it a day?

Why wasn’t it obvious that Steve Albini would have been perfect to produce this? He doesn’t understand dance music, but his rock references doesn’t exactly run a tiny gamut from Allman to Zeppelin, either. We couldn’t have hired him; he isn’t Canadian. But neither is the NHL.

Arena-rock snobs

Let me get back to the idea of ossified musical tastes. In the present case the genre into which Rock’s feet are cemented is some kind of unreconstructed “arena rock,” whatever that is, reflecting Canada’s “hockey culture,” to the extent it even exists.

Really, I do my share of vicious denunciation of the maladaptives on Project Runway, but hockey isn’t part of my history or my Canada, save for weird little shards intruding into the tender parts here and there. And I’m an invert who actually likes rock music. I ran the Smithereens mailing list in a former lifetime. I know all the classic-rock singles by heart. I whittled down every Tool album to a manageable playlist.

But who the hell said a hockey anthem had to be all rock & roll all the time at this point in our economic history? If Dolores Claman’s original theme isn’t a rock anthem, why must its replacement be? Because the Corpse hired a rock snob to churn one out. Only Bob Rock could spin straw into Led.

Not to mention the lies!

How many of the public statements by CBC were full-on bullshit from start to finish?

  • Like the claims, easily refuted, that Claman’s reps demanded millions in compensation? (That was only one set of demands. Another option was just to keep paying about $500 a game. And Claman et al. got those millions anyway – via Ivan Fecan.)
  • Like the Corpse can’t very well be negotiating with somebody who’s suing them for copyright infringement? (But the Corpse was infringing copyright.)
  • Like hockey is a game, not a song? (So why are we running a song contest?)
  • Like each of the 15,000-odd entries was heard four or five times? (That reduces the contingent of 400 non-musician “judges” to an effective 100 judges. Could you pick a winner out of 150 songs?)

I’ve been sitting here mulling over a list of questions for our own Morrissey-like truculent-and-unreliable-witness figure, Scott Moore. (Except he’s not truculent. He puts a lot of work into a nice-guy demeanour. Maybe he really is one. I don’t want him to be nice; I just want him to be honest and responsible.)

Do you know how many questions are on that list? It’s like tracking Air India or the (Bob) Rock Machine or something. It’s labyrinthine. I don’t know if I can do it. I probably can’t.

This issue needs a paid investigative reporter to ferret out the truth. (Every “record” in CBC’s possession can be requested, after all.) And it needs a media outlet that’s actually willing to publish it. How many of those have we got left?

How many of them are run by Ivan Fecan and his juggernaut empire?

Fecan’s juggernaut now owns the true, proper, sole and inviolable, eternal Hockey Night in Canada theme. It just commissioned a round of orchestrations – some of them expendable, like Simple Plan’s, but others meant to be taken seriously. What were his instructions? “I want Old Coke.

Well, me too. Nobody ever wanted anything else. You didn’t, either, Colin.

1 comment

  1. thisismusicbaby
    Posted October 21, 2008 at 4:47 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    It’s true. It’s not exactly moving forward. Could we not have thrown in a lil’ Timbaland or “Mutt” Lange into da mix? That ginger-haired producer may be a Canadian music legend and it was appropriate for him to step in, but why the same producer for all FIVE songs? Huh? That’s why they all sounded the same!

    People will complain… and complain… and eventually they will get used to it.


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