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July 26th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Media, Blogging, Internet; Music, Bands & Radio

NY Times Profiles CBC host Jian Ghomeshi


Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio’s ‘Q,’ one of my favorite talk shows on radio, has been profiled by the NY Times John Schwartz in an article headlined “A Wild Mix of Culture by Way of Canada.” I had recently written about Jian and ‘Q’ in this post, after he won the Gold Award for best talk-show host at the New York Festivals International Radio Awards. I am pleased to see him making so much headway in New York City, and throughout the States, where the program is now carried on 120 public radio stations, including WNYC 93.9 FM at 10 PM on weeknights. I took the photo below of Jian (l.) and CBC host Grant Lawrence when I was recently in Toronto for NXNE, and along with a group of CBC Radio 3 fans was given a tour of the broadcast facility.

 

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July 19th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Media, Blogging, Internet; Music, Bands & Radio

In Depth Profile of CBC Radio’s Jian Ghomeshi

July 25 Update: Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio’s ‘Q’ has now also been the subject of a NY Times profile, and here’s a link to it. I’m really pleased to see Jian and his program making so much headway in New York City, and throughout the States.

CBC Radio One’s morning program ‘Q‘ is one of my favorite shows on any radio network. Though normally produced at CBC’s headquarters in Toronto, host Jian Ghomeshi and his producers occasionally take their show on the road, which allowed my son Ewan and I to attend a live taping held in WNYC’s Greene Space in 2011. That night Jian interviewed guests Joy Behar and Fran Leibowitz and the band The National played too. He was very personable when we talked afterward, and pleased to meet U.S. listeners like us. That visit to NY was a prologue as the show has a spot on WNYC’s evening schedule this summer, 10 PM on the FM frequency, 93.9. I still listen on the Internet most mornings while at my desk, but it’s also great that I can hear it in the evenings if I missed it earlier.

Last month, during the NXNE festival, when fans of CBC Radio 3, the indie rock outpost of CBC, got a tour of CBC HQs, producer Pedro Mendes and Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence brought Jian out to meet the group. He was charming, and when I (re-) introduced myself he remembered having met me and Ewan in NY more than a year ago. That afternoon I took this photo of Jian, in the soccer jersey, and Grant, in flannel. 

Today I was glad to read a profile of Jian in the Globe & Mail from last weekend. Reporter Brad Wheeler adopts a somewhat snarky tone, but overall, it’s a good article, with info like this:

“Last month, Ghomeshi won the Gold Award for best talk-show host at the New York Festivals International Radio Awards. Q, the popular daily arts, entertainment and culture magazine he hosts with aplomb and a soothing baritone, air[ing] on 120 public radio stations south of the border, including in major markets such as New York, Chicago and San Diego. . . . Q’s unprecedented American victories are explainable. The show takes pop culture seriously, attracts A-list guests, engages in lively debate and manages a rhythmic flow of its varied content. You have a host in Ghomeshi who comes with an exotic cultural background, a radio-friendly baritone, and who’s cocky and well-read enough to take on a variety of issues and interview subjects in an in-depth way. ‘The type of show Jian does draws on a lot aspects of the host’s personality,’ says Robert Harris, long-time CBC personality and producer. ‘It stretches your brain power, and the audience reacts to it.’ . . . . Some of the new listeners no doubt react to Q’s hip list of musical guests. Moreover, the artists and labels themselves are on board. Would rapper andQ guest Jay-Z have done Radio One five years ago? No chance. ‘American managers are reaching out to me, wanting to know which shows they should do,’ says Patrick Sambrook, a prominent artists’ manager whose clients include Kathleen Edwards and Sarah Harmer. ‘Q is on the top of the list for international artists coming to Canada. It’s the show that you want to be on.’”

To this I would add that ‘Q’ broadcast a nearly one-hour interview with Neil Young and Daniel Lanois, when “LeNoise” was released last year, a rare bit of media access that Neil chose to give ‘Q.’ More recently, Jian interviewed Chinese dissident artist, Ai Weiwei, who chose to appear on ‘Q’ despite continuing threats to his freedom by the Chinese government. I haven’t heard Ai WeiWei on any NPR programs. Clearly, ‘Q’ has become a go-to show for artists, authors, and many public figures. If you enjoy filling your day with intelligent talk radio, I recommend you listen to this terrific program. Being nowhere near Canadian air waves doesn’t matter, as it’s easy to listen to CBC on the Web.

Jian, whose family comes orginally from Iran, moved from England to Canada when he was fourteen is writing a book, 1982, about his teenage obsession with David Bowie, which will be published in Canada, and he told me, the U.S.

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April 22nd, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Music, Bands & Radio

Reflecting on The Band’s Break-up and Levon’s Death

Among the pieces of journalism and commentary I’ve read about Levon Helm since word of his terminal condition was released by his family last week, and then since his death on Thursday, this one by Mark Guarino is the best yet. I recommend you read it, for it captures the injustice that accompanied The Band’s dissolution, and how Robbie Robertson and the businesspeople around him really did treat his four bandmates inequitably. According to Levon, in his memoir This Wheel’s on Fire, Robbie claimed all the publishing royalties on most of their songs, compositions that had famously been workshopped by all five of them, beginning at the Big Pink house, and in later sessions. For the sake of argument, even if Robbie believed he was genuinely responsible for most of the songwriting, why not assert a claim on a larger share of the royalties and then split the remaining percentage four ways? Instead, he just walked away with it all on most of their repertoire and by the time Levon received his cancer diagnosis in 1998, he had to declare personal bankruptcy and nearly lost his house. I know Robbie came to his bedside this week, and if Levon really reconciled with him that’s great, but it’s hard not to see Robbie’s visit as some self-serving absolution. It certainly adds to the sadness of Levon’s passing to say this, but I believe it’s true.

Now, as many articles have pointed out, Levon did mount a great second act with the Midnight Ramble, the Grammy-winning albums, and playing and singing with his daughter Amy. But that happiness stands in sharp contrast to the fact that nothing like that happened for Richard Manuel and Rick Danko, and this is where Guarino’s Christian Science Monitor article, “Levon Helm and The Band: a rock parable of fame, betrayal, and redemption” is most valuable.

Manuel’s post-breakup troubles ended with his 1986 suicide, during a revival tour of The Band sans Robbie. Guarino tells us that Levon is the one who found him after he’d hanged himself. As for Danko, he died at fifty-one from complications of heart disease. Guarino, quoting from the memoir, reminds us of Levon’s words: “If Rick’s money wasn’t in their pockets, I don’t think Rick would have died because Rick worked himself to death.… He wasn’t that old and he wasn’t that sick. He just worked himself to death. And the reason Rick had to work all the time was because he’d been [expletive] out of his money.” To be fair, it should be admitted too that a hard-partying lifestyle would have contributed to Manuel’s and Danko’s early demise (see Danko’s stoned moments with Janis Joplin in the rolling concert film “Festival Express,” if you have any doubt how much Rick loved getting high), but it doesn’t change the fact that playing half-empty dives to keep making a living, for a musician who once played to 600,000 at Watkins Glen with the Allmans and The Dead in ’73 (which I personally attended*), had to have depressed him and Manuel to a point where continued substance abuse was, if not inevitable, unsurprising.

All this sadness acknowledged, it is comforting to see how sadness brings us all together, bridging intervening years. After posting on Facebook and Twitter over the past week, I’ve heard from high school friends, such as Seth Foldy of Friends School and hometown Cleveland pals, like Eric Broder. Eric referred me to the Drive-by-Truckers’ Danko-Manuel song, with its haunted lyrics, “Got to sinking in the place where I once stood/Now I ain’t living like I should . . . Richard Manuel is dead”.

It was fitting to me that the family’s first message about Levon’s illness, while originating with his wife and Amy (who I had the privilege of hearing sing a few months ago with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings**, a performance I wrote about here), was immediately passed along on social media by “Bob Dylan and The Band.” And then, after Levon died, this appeared on bobdylan.com: “He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation. This is just so sad to talk about. I still can remember the first day I met him and the last day I saw him. We go back pretty far and had been through some trials together. I’m going to miss him, as I’m sure a whole lot of others will too.”

In honor of The Band and Bob Dylan, and yesterday’s Record Store Day, I’ve taken photos of all my LPs and CDs coming from their great musical enterprise, even Robbie’s first solo album. (click on thumbnails for full panorama of album images

* From that great weekend, I recall that a heavy thunderstorm with distant bolts of lightning let loose on the Saturday night, and The Band, then playing, had to flee the stage out of safety concerns. When the downpour had ebbed, Garth Hudson came out first and sat at his organ beneath a protective little canopy, launching into an unforgettable rendition of the solo that opens “Chest Fever, a song on “Music From Big Pink,” “Chest Fever.” These moments are forever captured on one of the CDs photographed below, “The Band- Live at Watkins Glen.”

**From Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Colin Linden, who knew and had played music with Levon, was interviewed by Jian Ghomeshi on the CBC Radio program ‘Q’ the day after his friend’s death, as was Garth Hudson, conversations that can be heard via this link.  

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March 27th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Music, Bands & Radio

The Soundtrack of My Teens–Hearing Neil Young Live in 1969

This is really exciting news. On June 6, to promote his forthcoming memoir Waging Heavy Peace, Neil Young will speak at BEA, the annual book industry convention. I’ve been attending BEA most years since I got started in the book biz in 1978, back when it was still called ABA, and have usually taken a pass on the guest speakers, but not this year. I am very eager to be there for Neil’s appearance and I’m sure lots of other book people will be there too. His publisher, the Blue Rider imprint of Penguin Putnam has put out this release along with the news, explaining that he will be interviewed by someone to be named later. [May 24 update: It's been announced that Neil's interlocutor will be Patti Smith.] Speaking of interviews, Jian Gomeshi of CBC Radio One’s “Q” program conducted a great interview last year with Neil, and Daniel Lanois, producer of Neil’s 2011 album “Le Noise.”

I’ve admired Neil since I was fourteen when I saw him perform in Cleveland. I went with my older brother Joel–with whom I would later operate our Cleveland bookstore Undercover Books–and despite my being way under-age, Joel, who would have just turned eighteen, somehow got me past the front door with him. Confirming my memories, Jimmy McDonough’s indispensable book Shakey describes the venue as “a tiny basement coffeehouse,” though I recall it also served liquor. I recall Neil played two consecutive nights, and we even went back for night #2. This was shortly after Buffalo Springfield split up, around when Neil’s first solo album was released, and before he brought out “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” the first album with Crazy Horse.

Neil played solo acoustic sets both nights, but he also had a backing band that opened on its own and later played with him, a tight, country-tinged outfit called Natchez Trace, about whom I’ve found a faint trace online. From that source, a Buffalo Springfield fan site, I see that the La Cave shows were on Saturday, May 31 and Sunday, June 1. I recall that the club was not crowded either night. At some point during the two nights, Joel and I availed ourselves of the opportunity to go up and say hello to Neil. I extended a hand and shared a shake with him, then so young, and a bit shy in fringed buckskins and extremely thin, as he was not many years past the polio that had defined his early years, also chronicled in Shakey. When I hear Neil speak on June 6, I’ll be fondly remembering those La Cave gigs and the early days of Neil’s career.

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November 21st, 2011

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Media, Blogging, Internet; Music, Bands & Radio

Love for the CBC from the LA Times

In what I judge to be an interesting assignment by editors at the Los Angeles Times, I read Marcia Adair’s article on the unifying effect that the CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster, has on the country’s civic identity. The story is partly pegged to the fact that “in a delicious twist, it seems that the broadest possible audience includes the United States, with more than 100 American public radio stations broadcasting CBC Radio programs,” many through Public Radio International (PRI). The shout-outs include a mention of ‘Q’ with Jian Gomeshi, whose refreshing interviews are a daily cultural tonic, and the indie music station, CBC Radio 3, one of the boldest radio experiments anywhere, whose continually evolving website is home to “27,408 artists, with 127,555 tracks.” For my part, I love all three CBC radio networks because compared with virtually all U.S. news and cultural outlets, including the New York Times and NPR, there is experimentation and little snark or cynicism. As Gomeshi puts it at the end of the story, “Listeners outside of our borders are experiencing the reality of what Canada is, rather than the stereotypes that exist about us. And by what Canada is, I mean a very diverse, largely urban, relatively sophisticated and quite progressive-thinking country.”