Category Archives: music

Twisted Sister Proves You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll

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I’ve seen Twisted Sister twice, once at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in 2005, and again for their Christmas show, A Twisted Christmas, at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania in 2009. I’ve also caught Dee Snider’s Van Helsing’s Curse in 2005. So how did I enjoy their most recent concert? Read the rest of this entry

In memory of Chris Squire of Yes

Andy with Yes1997, outside Massey Hall, upon meeting Chris Squire of Yes for the first time:

Me: You’re the whole reason I play bass guitar.
Chris: Well, that’s a bloody good reason, isn’t it?

Chris Squire has passed away. If you know me at all, you know Yes has been one of my favourite bands for nearly a quarter century. My first bass was an imitation Rickenbacker like Chris’. When I played bass in bands, I did my best to emulate his sound, the way he’d play sliding up the neck.

The first time I saw Yes was in 1994, on the Talk tour with my best pal Perry. I wasn’t supposed to be at the gig. I had developed a horrible case of tinnitus that had left me looking at a bottle of pills, thinking that I couldn’t live with it. But thankfully, I got over that. We went to the gig at Kingswood Music Theater, maybe six rows back, and when Chris played the amazing bass intro on Heart of the Sunrise, I did the whole “we’re not worthy” thing. He saw and laughed. But it was true. We weren’t.

In 2004, thanks to kindness of Bruce Henne of hennemusic.com, I had the chance to interview Chris and his bandmate Alan White for Corus Radio Canada. It was pretty fantastic. I’d meet Chris over the ensuing years and what amazed me most was his gigantic hands – one of the world’s top five bassists simply was born to play the instrument. One of the last gigs I saw with Yes, I took my Uncle David to. We went backstage afterwards and my uncle had a chance to chat for just a brief moment with Chris. It was a memorable moment for both of us.

Along with being a master musician, Chris was also father to a young daughter. It’s such a shame she won’t have more time with her dad, but hopefully she’ll grow up knowing what a groundbreaking, influential man he was, and that those of us that loved his music loved the man as well.

Thank you, Chris Squire, for the inspiration and influence. Like the greatest of my heroes, I wouldn’t be whom I am today without your guiding light to help put me on a path.

Robin Renee On… Joan Armatrading’s Track Record

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Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

One of the things I’ve always loved about listening to music is the experience of diving deep into an entire album. From the first song to the last, at least in the case of most of my favorites, there is a journey in store. The songs follow one from another taking sonic and emotional turns, all according to the creation and direction of the artist. That has always made greatest hits albums while sometimes enjoyable, not necessarily as relevant since they seem to be missing some part of the story or intention. There are definitely collections that defy this loosely-held attitude of mine; in fact, there are some greatest hits collections that made it onto my favorite listening experience list. Joan Armatrading’s Track Record is one of those.

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JP Fallavollita On…New Order Substance

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

New Order Substance coverGrowing up, I’d spend much of my summer holidays and even my fall long weekends at my friend Melanie’s cottage on Chandos Lake, just outside the town of Apsley, well north of Toronto.

Melanie was more than just a neighbour. Born three days before me, she was like my (ever-so-slightly) older sister and we grew up together, involved in each other’s lives day in and day out.

We walked together, to and from school, through kindergarten and the elementary grades. Her parents were surrogates to my own. I’d have a bowl of Heinz Scarios for lunch at her house on some days and she’d have a mortadella panino at mine on others. On our street, we played “Hide and Seek” as a team, and she would give me nods and winks in games of Clue so that I could surmise Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the rope. We collected, and played with, G.I. Joe figures together: me with Duke and Snow Job, and her with Scarlet and Lady Jaye. She’d have my back in the odd fist fight in the school playground, and she’d help me pass anonymous Valentine’s Day notes to the girls of my affections in grades four and five. At her cottage we caught frogs together and went fishing off of the dock, then water-skiing, then roasting marshmallows on an open fire. Those days were full and fun days.

Although there was some inherent distance between each other after grade eight by attending different high schools, like all good older sisters, we’d still spend time together and she’d still share some of her discoveries with her “younger brother” when we did get together. One week at her cottage during the early summer of 1988, the summer before grade ten, she shared her newly discovered love for pop music by handing me, along with her Sony Walkman, a white cassette tape projecting the simple, powerful, black font words of: New Order Substance 1987. “Listen to this,” she commanded me. And, as an obedient by-three-days younger brother, I did.

That cassette tape would change my life.

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Leiki Veskimets On…Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

I was 8 when Cyndi Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual” was released, and I discovered it on cassette tape. Before then there was Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Prince, so when Cyndi came along, bursting with immense confidence, talent and unapologetic decisions, it was hard not to notice. Yup, even at 8, drowning in the “Just Say No” marketing of the 80s. I feel lucky that it landed in my lap when it did. I can’t remember the source, it was very likely intended for my older sister, but with youthful sponge-like absorption, I inhaled that album, playing each side over and over until I could hear the notes of the next song in my head as the previous one was fading out.

cyndi_lauper_-shes_so_unusual

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CMW 2015: Rashid St. James

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Rashid St. James, the energetic and quotable rapper from downtown Toronto, performed for Canadian Music Week at Studio Bar on Dundas Street West Wednesday night. St. James’ performance was yet another example of the city’s rising homegrown talent.

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Allie, River Tiber, and Jessy Lanza at Tattoo Rock Parlour

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Jessy Lanza

Red Bull Sound Select at Tattoo Rock Parlour this past Thursday night was a pleasant wave of warmth on a cold Toronto night. Allie, River Tiber, and Jessy Lanza performed for 3 dollars a head. All you had to do was sign-up to the Red Bull Sound Select email list and RSVP that you were coming. The 3-band showcase featured a mostly-full house of patrons eager to distract themselves from the sudden change in weather.

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Robin Renée On… Steely Dan

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favourite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

Becker Fagen

Some time ago I took on the “just because” task of cataloging my hundred favorite songs. This was not an easy task. I found that no matter what I did, I was never entirely comfortable with calling the list definitive. One of the things I learned in the process is that favorite songs and favorite bands don’t necessarily go hand-in hand. I’d gotten pretty far into the list before I realized I had some glaring omissions. It was incredibly difficult to choose songs by one of my absolute favorite bands – Steely Dan. I found myself struggling to pick a few to include since their absence would make no sense at all.

Having to wonder why it was so hard to pick favorites brought me to a realization about this enigmatic Walter Becker and Donald Fagen duo that has become part of the fiber of my being over decades: It is the overarching concept-sound-imprint of Steely Dan that draws me in. Like their magnum opus, Aja (1977), Steely Dan is a unified experience. You can lift out individual songs, but a discussion of each one in turn is a very partial sum of the parts. I love this band from having absorbed their music whole cloth through time. This love has taken me on lots of adventures – an amusing and geeky one in 2008 when a friend and I took on our own “Steely Dan Drink Quest” to imbibe all drinks mentioned in SD songs and Becker and Fagen solo recordings (Drinking “kirschwasser from a shell” was not the soothing tropical experience I had expected.).

Here, I will share some tunes with which I resonate and bits of my personal experience. To explore the band with more depth, pick an album, relax, grab a beverage of choice, and listen start to finish. Try it old school style, lyrics in hand (or on screen).

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45 Years of Black Sabbath

A classic album stands the test of time. It stirs an emotion the first time you hear it, and can evoke the same response years down the road. If it kicked your ass the first time, it will kick your ass again even if you haven’t heard it in years. Such is the case with Black Sabbath’s iconic self-titled debut, celebrating its 45th anniversary this month. Read the rest of this entry

The GAR! Podcast: JAG! With Special Guest Jenn Walker

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Biff Bam Pop! presents The GAR! Podcast, the Glenn Walker and Ray Cornwall weekly podcast where they talk unrehearsed about whatever happens to come to mind. It’s an audio-zine for your mind, a nerd exploration of a nerd world. This week, Ray is too sick to talk, so I’ve recruited The Bride, Jenn Walker, to sub for him. We’re talking about the big “Saturday Night Live” anniversary special, the new Ghostbusters, and even comics, and television, along with a new spin on all the usual stuff. See and hear more after the jump.

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