Let's Rave On; The Fall of the Top of the Pops

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Have you ever seen those Korean tour groups going around your city, taking pictures of absolutely everything and generally being a pain in the ass? Well, that’s what I did this weekend. Koreans don’t travel alone generally, so they go in these tours that stop at every single kitchy little tourist stop possible. In three days, I must have seen three dozen places, all botanical gardens, museums, graveyards, temples, and giant rocks that look like dragons. Doing as Romans do, I took some pretty awesome shots of the whole thing, and they’ll be up tomorrow at my site, too.

I was so exhausted from the whole trip that I think I’m going to take Monday off as a sick day just so I can sleep.


There is No News

Frankly, it’s kind of a slow news week, and the big story is the subject of my essay this week, so I’m just going to link you to the failed pilot of the Scrubs/Family Guy writer collaboration Nobody’s Watching. You’ll be immediately pissed off at the WB for not actually showing this on network.


Free Music

Here’s a bunch of awesome Elliott Smith covers. My favorite’s “Jealous Guy”, but “Don’t Fear The Reaper” stands tall too, even without excess cowbell.

The lancaster Orchestra recently did a cover of Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want. It sounds really cool, as if Sigur Ros did English covers.

Speaking of Smith’s covers, Nada Surf did a rendition of There is a Light That Never Goes Out.

The Concretes cover Miss You by the Stones.

Minor Majority takes on Motor Way by Guided By Voices.

And if anybody ever wanted a disco-styled version of ACDC’s You Shook Me All Night Long, now there is one, curtesy of Bing Ji Ling

-Covers provided by Copy, Right?


Shawn wants Ryan Adams to sing at his wedding. I could see it.

Mathan picks out his favorite tracks from double disc albums. And I don’t think “Death To Celine” was too brash. In fact, it was kind of redundant. One cannot kill something that is already dead.

Gloomchen takes Myspace apart. That’s something I’ve been meaning to write about. Or have I already? I’m not sure.


Let’s Rave On

Up in Canada, we used to have this show called “The Hit List” on YTV (Youth Television). It was a countdown show of pop music hosted by enigmatic chrome dome DJ Tarzan Dan (Hi buddy!) He pretty much had the hearts of everyone who watched the show. My friend Sara taped his show for years and still has them safely organized. One of these days, I’m going to camp out at her place for a few weeks and watch them all. I might do that after the next book comes out, since I am prone to breakdowns (link to last episode of Let’s Rave On, the novel) after momentous life occurrences. But anyway, my point is that “The Hit List” was a pretty good pop music show, and when it was finished (Okay, so the show might still be on, but Dan left in the mid 90’s, and most folks will agree with me that the show died then), it changed something. I’m not sure exactly what it changed, but after Tarzan Dan stopped telling me to listen to, I began to listen to completely different music. It’s not that Dan had bad taste, far from it. He played videos MTV would never play, and interviewed bands not nearly famous enough to garner such attention. It’s just that once that presence was no longer there, I found different things because I was forced to fend for myself.

Earlier this week I heard that BBC’s “Top of the Pops” was due to be cancelled. Now, I’ve never seen this show, and I’m sure that most people this side of the Pacific haven’t, either. But “Top of the Pops” has always had a presence in my life, whether appearing as a backdrop to a British movie, or a quote in “Q” magazine, or a quip from an interview somewhere. Even though I’ve never seen it, I’ve always known about it, and for this reason “Top of the Pops” is probably very important to a lot of people, and its cancellation is probably a stab at the hearts of folks who have followed it for years. In a feat likely never to be repeated again, “Top of the Pops” had a 42 year run of playing live music and videos every single week, and pretty much mainstreamed the idea of a weekly music countdown. To hear of the demise of such a revolutionary TV show in music should probably bring me a hint of sadness and maybe a smidgen of despair. Except, the only thing I can think of is what happened after Tarzan Dan left “The Hit List.”

At first, my musical tastes got substantially worse. I got into quirky rock like Presidents of the United States of America and Toad the Wet Sprocket. Then, for some reason, I became enthralled with Marilyn Manson and pretty much everything he did. From there I got into Fear Factory and Korn and Slipknot and Limp Bizkit. Those that know me now still can’t believe I own CD’s by these bands. Thing is, I was willing to try just about anything. Without any sort of guide to traverse the musical landscape, I was left with the ominous space of the entire collection of mainstream music. There was 50 years of rock and roll I had little experience with, so I took hold of whatever made sense at the time. And I was a pretty pissed off 14-year old, you know? Manson knew how I felt.

Eventually I would tire of the nu metal schlock. It didn’t fit me anymore, but what did? It was 2001, the last year where nu metal was played on the radio with ferver. What choice did I have? The frickin dance station? Screw that. I was a rocker. I rocked out. But the stuff the radio offered did nothing for me. So I went searching again. In doing so, I found three artists that are still paramount to my musical sphere; Conor Oberst, DJ Shadow, and Jeff Buckley. Here were three artists I had never heard outside of a tiny music store in London, Ontario, who I was beginning to fall absolutely in love with. Here was something that could save me. And I found it myself, with the help of no DJ, no word of mouth, no internet forum.

“Top of the Pops” is probably better than “TRL” in the States and undoubtedly better than “Much on Demand” in Canada, two other countdown-esque shows that tie in live music. It’s likely more respected, more revered, and closer to the hearts of it’s viewers. A show that runs for 42 years deserves that kind of respect. There are likely a lot of very, very sad people right now. But I can’t help but think that this is a chance for these people to break free and find the music that will really save them.

What would people do without these kind of shows? Hell, what would people do without media outlets that constantly stream music? Would the amount of CD’s purchased go down? Likely. Would the amount of music downloaded illegally go up? Almost definitely. Would people listen to less music? Absolutely not. Would people listen to subjectively better music? Absolutely. There’s no two ways about it. With the politics and the scandals that go into mainstream music, the best stuff never really gets the rise to the top.

Countdowns themselves are propaganda. Their methods of tally are always explained with a sense of vague anonymity. They go by “viewer demand” and “call requests”, but with the recent fallout on major record companies paying people to call into these shows, this kind of system cannot be trusted. When a song is #1, one immediately assumes two things. The first assumption is that this song is very popular. The second assumption is that this song must be very good. Is this always true? Do the numbers really stack up? And are you okay with this song being your #1 song this week?

I was totally okay with Tarzan Dan telling me what was #1. But when he was gone, I began to realize that I didn’t need it. I could figure out what it was for myself. It didn’t have to be the same as everyone else’s. It didn’t have to be a pop song. It didn’t have to fit the grid. It was a long, hard road, but it was worth it. I mean, look where I am. I’m writing an opinion column on a website full of music snobs, and I can do this because I’ve had a musical journey outside the box. When “Top of the Pops” finally shuts down, millions of Brits are going to have to have a journey themselves. One can only pray that “TRL” takes the hint that as a people, we no longer need or want it to tell us what to do.