Monday, November 20, 2006

Gimme some Payola($)...

On the topic of music...

Once upon a time, and a long time ago it was (as all good stories begin):

I discovered Rock And Roll.

I was a (just-about) teenager in a relatively small 'city' in what used to be called Upper Canada. Like many, I had some records. Yes, 'records'. For those of us of A Certain Age™, this means The Nirvana Of Music™. Twelve inches across, black vinyl, put it on the turntable, and you're there.

Like many, I have to admit to owning a number of ABBA records. But the first real album I owned was 'Physical', by Olivia Newton-John, which I didn't buy for the double entendre, no, not at all. And the second: 'Dare', by the Human League. Because it was, and still is, the best Euro-Synth-Pop record ever made.

However...

Having grown up on a diet of local AM radio, it was a revelation to me when I discovered AM Top 40. In the name of CKLC 1380, a station that is, sadly, no longer in any way related to pop music. But it was excellent, for a 14-year old.

I was a late starter, ok? But I wanted more.

And more showed up. FM Radio, from the U.S. of A. Across Lake Ontario, hauled in on an ancient radio, from 'Y94, the ROCK OF ROCHESTER!!!'. Too bad they sold out and went Adult Contemporary a few years later. But then, it was a Revelation. Album-oriented-rock. Wow.

I think the first song I heard was something by Black Sabbath, but it could have been Judas Priest. Doesn't matter. It was in stereo, with guitars and drums and bass and vocals splashed all over the left-to-right stereo spectrum. And I was hooked. Years and years of listening later, I have suffered through addictions to Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Jethro Tull, the Blue Ă–yster Cult, and other guitar-heavy bands. But there is one that comparatively few others have heard of, and I need to rectify this.

The Payola$.

A Canadian band from the 80's, they released what is in my opinion one of the Best Rock Albums Ever™. It was called 'No Stranger To Danger'. I first heard it on the audio system of an airplane, en route from Canada to England, in the summer of 1982. A summer in which I watched Dino Zoff and the Italian team win the World Cup. A summer in which I watched Captain Sensible hit the #1 position on Top Of The Pops with his cover of 'Happy Talk', from South Pacific (b/w 'It/I Can't Stand It', and yes, I bought the single as a souvenir). I hunted that few weeks in England in record stores, and nobody new what I was talking about. Turns out, it was also the summer that the airline mis-spelled the band's name, so I kept looking for 'Payload' instead. And it didn't matter anyway, because nobody in England knew about this band, even in the slightest.

It was the summer I fell in love with that Payola$ album, its beats, its jangly guitars, its English-accented-somewhat punk, its kinda New Romantic lyrics, its fabulously mystic tunes, its garage-band rocking noise. I had no experience yet with Ska, Reggae or Rockabilly, but they were all represented. I didn't know about Bob Marley, The Specials, The Police, The Stray Cats. Not yet. But the Rock 'n Roll, I totally got.

And this brings us to today's point - the damn thing isn't available on CD. Select cuts ('Rose', 'Romance', the incomparable 'Eyes of a Stranger' with its ringing guitars and driving beat, 'Hastings Street', which should make even the most hardened rock'n roll cynic cry) are out on compilations. But the whole album, no. Not the post-punk driving shouty noise of 'Youth', not the uptempo ska-influenced 'Lights To Change', not the achingly beautiful 'Pennies Into Gold'.

It seems the term 'Payola', meaning a pay-off from a record company to a radio station ('pay for play') probably sunk the band in the US market, which even then was overly commercialized. Which is a shame.

So, I'm stuck with the vinyl LP and a broken record player, or the cassette copy from years ago (the tape has been played enough that 'noise reduction' is now a joke).

I guess I'm getting old. My favourite bands are becoming relics of disused audio formats.

But now you know. The Payola$. 'No Stranger To Danger'. One of the best. Ever.

12 comments:

The Wrath of Dawn said...

Old? I think not, grasshopper. Why you haven't even had the dust of 4 decades settle on you yet...

I remember that band. I liked them too, although with less fervour.

I used to tune in to WMEX in Boston, which strangely, you could only get at night. Changed my world, I can tell you. The local stations still hadn't switched to formula playlists yet, so it was the only place to get only the music I wanted to hear without Frank Sinatra or Conway Twitty mixed in.

And I really am getting old, because I'm heartily sick of having to change audio formats and sure sign of impending old age is lack of interest in new technology. Having said that, the kids have gotten me an iPod Suffle for Christmas, so I'm not irretrivably ancient yet, just a little cranky. Now they say CDs are going the way of the LP/dodo. Gah.

Excellent post, BTW.

Anna said...

Since we're talking about music...
Have you ever listend to Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon while watching The Wizard of Oz? It's really weird. The plots line up at the same time.

The Wrath of Dawn said...

Well, that's just darned peculiar, isn't it?

Ricardipus said...

Wrath... and we thank you. I forgot to mention that this post was entirely inspired by the videos over at your place.

Formats... argh. Yargh. Bleeurgh. Imagine the trauma I underwent just getting my head around mp3 as a concept.

How do you know what the kids have gotten you for Christmas? Is your home in some kind of time warp (apart from the well-known half-hour one)?

Anna - never done this, but they show 'Darkside of Oz' as you describe in local art-house theatres here from time to time. I suspect that lots of mind-altering chemicals help the effect, but I wouldn't know.

Aunty Marianne said...

I've heard that if you listen to the Sound of Music whilst watching Prime Minister's Question Time of a Wednesday lunchtime, the meaning of life is revealed unto you.

robert said...

seems to me you are in an ideal situation as a vinyl LP is a great way to listen to music....why not buy a new turntable and just listen to the vinyl LP(?) Or am just tooooo old and living in the past....I think not grasshopper
www.collectingvinylrecords.com

The Wrath of Dawn said...

And you is welcome. Glad to be of service.

I can well imagine the trauma. Picture me about 5 years ago trying to figure out why I couldn't burn mp3s to CD. It wasn't pretty.

And now I'm able to download viewers to my Palm Pilot so I can download and read books. There is hope for everyone.

I know what the kids have gotten me for Christmas because I am a mother and we know all and see all. Also, I asked for it and helped one of them find the website to order it. *ahem*

aunty marianne - Really? Tomorrow's Wednesday. Can't wait. I shall report back with my findings.

robert - Can you still buy turntables? I suppose there'd be 2nd hand ones...

#Debi said...

Actually, I have a turntable that I'd be willing to sell, along with the rest of the stereo components... I've blogged about a new type of turntable that I found on teh intarnet that will plug directly into your computer, allowing you to convert your vinyl to mp3 (or just listen to your vinyl via stereo)...

robert said...

Dawn....
Sure you can buy them turntables...brand new!! check out my site or Amazon or Overstock or any electroncis web store! they are coming back....I swear!!

Robert
www.collectingvinylrecords.com

Black Knight said...

iPod Soufflé?

Mmm.

DTs Flash Drive Blog said...

I only recently came across the Payolas through the song "Eyes of a stranger". Its becoming one of my all time-favs and the album is great too! I actually have it on mp3 (from vinyl). Hopefully we'll see it on CD once the record industry gets over itself. Hah! And put some bonus tracks on it too. Btw, here's the awesome video to Eyes of a stranger: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1C_fVnE3xHY

Ricardipus said...

Wow, someone's still reading this post... ;)

Thanks for the comment. I'm going to have to mp3 up my vinyl copy too... if I can get my turntable working again, that is :)