The Death of Facts

The other day, The Chicago Tribune featured a satiric story about the death of Facts. A sad story, but possibly true.

When I was a teenager, I'd often call the downtown Vancouver Public Library where the staff there would look up facts for me. Although it's hard to believe now, they'd put me on hold and rummage through the appropriate reference books until they found the answers to the questions I'd asked. The librarians always seemed happy, and maybe even a little proud, to be able to help me in this way.

Later in life, a large part of my fascination with the computer revolution hinged on the very real possibility that facts would someday become easily and instantly available without the necessity of those phone calls. The internet tied all the computers together and it soon seemed as though we would presently have access to a worldwide library wherein all truth could be found.

I signed on with more passion and conviction than anyone I knew, and sure enough, the internet eventually became my personal and dependable fact repository. Then a strange thing began happening ...

As the internet began to become *everyone's* personal library and access to facts became ubiquitous, those same facts began to lose their lustre. As they became less rare - they seemed to become less valuable.

And as the internet democratized the collection and storage of facts, institutions formerly trusted to caretake them - The Encyclopaedia Britannica, The New York Times, the Vancouver Public Library for instance - were eroded and undermined. The conflicting agendas of the online masses and the new media they aligned with began to create, re-purpose or spin facts to support whatever opinions they felt required supporting.

For a while there, I thought I was losing my mind. My searches for dependable information became less and less fruitful. Reputable and supposedly trustworthy experts delivered black-and-white opposite versions of what should have been the simple truth. Trying to identify definitive facts became next to impossible for me. I yearned for the nice ladies at the Vancouver Public Library.

If my Dad was still around, he'd be reminding me now that the press and media - and anyone else trusted with the power of information (or simply "the power") - has always lied - twisting or inventing the facts as they pleased for their own purposes. He was right, I know, but this is different.

I didn't become a news junkie until September 11th 2001. Before that I'd check the news in the morning the way our parents quickly scanned the front pages of the morning paper. On that Tuesday morning the news page I frequented was simply a white background with black headlines, saying only that New York City was "under attack".

After 911, I was addicted to unfolding history. I was drunk with the power the internet gave me to parse every molecule of information at the moment it became available. I kept a bottle of Visine beside my computer screen.

Soon, questions arose. A theory was advanced that controlled demolitions had brought down the World Trade Centre buildings. A YouTube clip demonstrated that a 757 couldn't fit into the hole in the Pentagon wall. If these citizen journalists were actually on to something, the ramifications were almost impossible to consider.

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars just added important questions that demanded answers. I waited for those answers to emerge, but the people and institutions now in control of the information simply continued to generate more facts, or statements with the appearance of facts, without ever taking responsibility for their veracity. Fair and balanced now seemed to mean that flat-earth believers still had viable facts to contribute to the news cycle.

While Obama restored my hope, his presidency has since become the focal point of some of the most egregious misuse of the f-word. Ridiculous assertions now stand as fact - unchallenged. Opinion is all that remains.

The Chicago Tribune story, while satirical, contains quotes from Mary Poovey, a professor of English at New York University and author of "A History of the Modern Fact." Both the professor and her book are, in fact, real. She says:

"There was an erosion of any kind of collective sense of what's true or how you would go about verifying any truth claims," Poovey said. "Opinion has become the new truth. And many people who already have opinions see in the 'news' an affirmation of the opinion they already had, and that confirms their opinion as fact."

The world wide web has brought people together in a way that has never before been possible and helped us accumulate a shared treasury of knowledge that's unsurpassed in history, and yet it's become a free-for-all in which the truth is threatened by dogma, superstition and politics.

I mourn the passing of Facts. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for truth and wisdom.


"Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
~ Steve Jobs - From his 2005 commencement address at Stanford

Trooper and the Cracker Company

In the last few weeks, friends, fans and a couple of people on the street have brought up the ‘Raise a Little Hell’ Cracker commercial. Some have congratulated me. Others have joked about lifetime supplies of saltines. Others, knowing that I don’t watch TV, simply wanted to be sure that I’d heard about it. As it turns out, I found out about it the way they did. I heard the familiar ‘A’ chord ring out from the living room as I worked at my computer here in the den. I jumped up, and Debbie and I watched, fascinated, as the slow motion crackers dropped into the waiting bowls of exploding tomato soup.

I’ve explained Trooper’s relationship with the Premium Plus cracker company to many people, and now would like to explain it to you. We don’t have a relationship with the Premium Plus cracker company. They don’t send crackers for our dressing room rider and we played no part in the choice of soup used in their commercial. The entire deal was done not only without our involvement, but also, without our knowledge.

Here’s how it works.

Universal Music owns the recording of ‘Raise a Little Hell’. Sony Music Publishing administers the use of the song. In both cases we are supposed to see royalties from the deal that’s struck, but we have no involvement in or control over it. No one even asked.

My share of the royalties won't be a lot of money considering the song I co-wrote will be repeatedly played on TV - in a cracker commercial - until next March, but not bad considering it just fell out of the sky onto me.

Thing is though, I’d prefer the song be covered by a kick-ass rock band and become a huge international hit. Hopefully said rock band will not see the cracker commercial.

“This Beat Goes On” - My Two-Cents

Just because I've never heard of 'The Dishes' shouldn't automatically disqualify them from a place in a documentary about Canadian popular music. An album by a band called 'Simply Saucer' beat out Trooper in Bob Mersereau's 'Top 100 Canadian Albums' book (they were #36 we were #60) and I'd never heard of them either. And despite the fact that I remember 'Martha and the Muffins' as a one-hit-wonder, their web site currently lists a total of 10 albums. So, really, what do I know? I have great sympathy for the producers of the two-part CBC documentary 'This Beat Goes On'. A truly comprehensive history of Canada's pop music would require several full days to present. The two episodes of TBGO, covering the 1970's, clocked in at two hours, minus commercials.

And, like Roy MacGregor said about our job as judges for the CBC's 'Seven Wonders of Canada' program - beyond all other considerations, a show of this nature needs to be "geographically correct". Considering writer Nicholas Jennings also wrote the astonishingly Toronto-centric 'Before the Goldrush' about the supposed genesis of the Canadian music scene, I was surprised and happy to see so much western-Canadian content. I was particularly impressed with the time and attention lavished on me, and my band.

Nonetheless, I'm still strangely unsatisfied with what will now stand as trusted documentation of the crazy Canadian music scene.

For one thing, I want you to know that the seventies Canadian music scene was a lot of fun. With only a few exceptions, I didn't get that sense from the show. It was low-key, scholarly and, forgive me Jian et al, a bit dull.

More important to me though is the fact that Canadian-made music is not the only music we Canadians listen to! Isolating Canadian hits from the mosaic of American and British music of the day is akin to presenting Van Halen's brown M&Ms as a full pack of candy. The constantly buzzing interaction of Canadian writers and performers with the outstanding music coming at us from the US and England was part of the unfolding thrill of what was happening here. Our music did not take seed and grow in the cultural vacuum that the documentary suggests by it's omissions. My song, "Two For the Show" only reached number two on the Canadian charts because a Paul McCartney song held on stubbornly at number one. That was the world we Canadian artists came up in.

I also have two petty quibbles:

I understand and applaud the doc's nod to the Quebec music scene but do not understand the omission of Montreal's Michel Pagliaro - the first Canadian artist to score top 40 hits on both the anglophone and francophone pop charts in Canada. (Last year Pag received the 'Governor General's Performing Arts Award', Canada's most prestigious artistic honour). His "What the Hell I Got" was one of my favourite songs in 1975, and still stands up well: (please forgive the total uselessness of this video)

And finally, regarding the story that Randy Bachman tells on the show about the pizza boy playing the piano part on "Takin' Care of Business": it's not true. I was there. The piano part was played by Seattle's Norman Durkee - a professional musician who deserves the credit for his deftly performed and rollicking track.

Why I Like Twitter Better Than Facebook

I have been trying to explain Twitter to friends - especially regarding its differences with Facebook - and have not been particularly successful. I think this article covers it pretty well (while also predicting that Facebook plans further changes to become more “Twitter-Like”.)

Clipped from

In general, there are two ways to model human relationships in software. An “asymmetric” model is how Twitter currently works. You can “follow” someone else without them following you back. It’s a one-way relationship that may or may not be mutual.

Facebook, on the other hand, has always used a “symmetric” model, where each time you add someone as a friend they have to add you as a friend as well. This is a two-way relationship, and it is required to have any relationship at all. So as a Facebook user there is always a 1-1 relationship among your friends. Everyone who you have claimed as a friend has also claimed you as a friend.

Andrew Chen recently described one advantage of the Twitter model. It allows 4 types of relationships, while Facebook only allows for two. The two relationships of Facebook are “friend and Not Friend”. The four relationships of Twitter are:

People who follow you, but you don’t follow back

People who don’t follow you, but you follow them

You both follow each other (Friends!)

Neither of you follow each other

Full article HERE.

(You can follow me on Twitter, if you want, here.)

The Juno Awards


“How do you feel about winning the best group Juno?” I was asked.

“It’s fucking wonderful” I responded.

” ‘It’s wonderful’ said Trooper singer Ra McGuire at last night’s Juno Award ceremonies …” reported the Toronto newspaper headline the next day.

It has always annoyed me that I wasn’t quoted correctly. There is, of course, a HUGE difference between “fucking wonderful” and just “wonderful”.

The 2009 Junos took place in Vancouver tonight. I didn’t attend this year. Trooper has received seven Juno nominations - and won the “Best Group” award - but we’ve only attended twice. Once, in 1978, when we were nominated for “Most Promising Group of the Year” and in 1980 when we were up for both “Best Group” and “Album of the Year”.

We flew to Toronto for our first Junos when we were nominated for “Most Promising Group of the Year”. We arrived proudly in the Royal York ballroom which was decorated with large blown-up album covers of all the nominated artists, and saw that ours was the only cover that was, humiliatingly, conspicuous in its absence. The evening deteriorated further when the “Most Promising” award was presented to “The THP Orchestra”.

In 1978, we were one of five bands nominated for “Group of the Year”, but chose not to attend. Rush won that year. In 1979 we were nominated again for “Group of the Year” and we chose, again, to not attend. Rush won it again. In 1980, now simply following a comfortable tradition, we once again turned down the Juno organizer’s invitation to fly to the Toronto ceremonies. At first they tried to shame us into coming, which didn’t work. Finally, they broke down and told us that we were going to win at least one award. So we embarked on what was to become a great Trooper adventure that ended with, among other things, members of the band rolling, drunk and in white suits, in a Toronto hotel driveway with Burton Cummings. My personal most embarrassing Juno moment came that year when a young Vancouver friend shouted across a room filled with Canadian music-biz royalty.

“Ra McGuire!!” he shouted when he spotted me. “You’re BIG!!”

It’s funny that I still remember that. We’ve never returned to the Junos and, because the whole idea of them still makes me uncomfortably squirmy, I’ve only managed to watch them on TV two or three times in the intervening years. There have been a couple of occasions, however, when I would have enjoyed shouting back at Bryan Adams, who’s gone on to do quite well for himself.

I’ve had more to say about this (and other things) on Twitter. You can follow me, if you want, here.


Shauna Mac invited me to join Facebook three years ago. Subway Steve friended me the day I signed up, noting that I had finally succumbed to Facebook’s evils. At the time I didn’t understand what he meant. Shortly thereafter I shut my new Facebook page down.


Newsweek’s Steve Tuttle just did the same because, he said: “In the end, Facebook is really the emptiest, loneliest place on the whole World Wide Web”, but my leaving had less to do with it’s inherent evils and more to do with my state of mind at the time.

In 2006 I had painted myself into a very public corner and Facebook just became the digital last straw. The release of my own, non-digital, book - a paper and ink version of my blog musings - had nudged my personal life out into the public world in a way that became surprisingly uncomfortable for me. During one of my first book promotion interviews, an Alberta newspaper writer asked me;

“What is it about blogs, that makes you think that we want to read your innermost thoughts from your personal diary?”

Despite my references to him in a subsequent blog post as “Asshat” and “Dickface”, his question added to my discomfort. What is it, indeed?

(I like to believe that “it” is my innate need for a creative outlet and the subsequent opportunity to interact with those that support that creativity. As they say, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.)

In February of last year I wrote here about the “exciting but often overwhelming concentration of attention on me and my personal life that has only just lately died down” - an assertion which, in retrospect, was at least a year premature. Regardless, it seems to have died down enough, at this point, that I no longer feel so burdened by the weight of that attention.

So much so, in fact, that I’ve signed up for Twitter

As you can see I’ve added a real-time feed from my new Twitter account to the sidebar of Technically speaking, those are “tweets” - the 140-character-maximum posts that I send to my “followers”. I can create the tweets on my phone or on my computer and they can be “followed” in the same way. My followers follow me and I, in turn, follow my followers. Twitter is a huge phenomenon. It’s free, easy to set up and use and, because of the size limitation, kinda fun. And maintaining Twitter is somehow much less onerous a task than traditional blogging or Facebook maintenance.

It may be foolish of me to make this commitment to a new social network, but I’ve decided that I’m unwilling to opt-out of the ongoing transmogrification of the internet and our interaction with it. I love the bleeding edge of technology - I owned a Radio Shack Model 100, the first portable computer and I wrestled html for the pre-amazon, pre-ebay internet in 1996. Far from bleeding edge, Twitter is already taken for granted by the bulk of the net’s denizens. How hard can it be?

I proceed on the belief that Twitter will be stimulating, useful, and, most of all, fun for me. I’ll shut it down if it fails to live up to that promise.

A good friend passed away last week and an email alerted me to a Facebook group created to commemorate him. Unable to log on without membership I tried my 2006 Facebook log-in and it worked. There was Shauna & Steve (now with photos of his new baby boy) and my other seven “friends”, waiting where I had left them. It turns out I can send my Twitter tweets to Facebook where they will appear as status updates.

I would now like to shamelessly request that you follow me on Twitter.

Thanks in advance for doing so!

Book News

My book has received some excellent reviews and has been nominated for the Blooker Prize. Also, I ran into the guys from April Wine at the Saskatoon Airport today and Brian Greenway (who is in the book and, apparently enjoyed reading the book) told me that he had seen it front-racked at bookstores in the Toronto International Airport. Which makes me very happy.

‘Sounds Like Canada’ Interview

Last Wednesday, Connor and I went in to the city to the big CBC building downtown. I thought it would be fun for him to see how a big-time national radio show (Sounds Like Canada) worked - and I wanted him with me in case someone decided it might be good for him to join in. As it turned out, Shelagh Rogers did invite him in to the studio after about ten minutes and he stayed on with us for what turned out to be an hour long interview. We were both gob-smacked when she played “The Audience Takes a Bow”. This was our song’s first airplay ever, so, as it played on radios and computers across Canada, we high-fived over our boom mikes. Shelagh was such a joy to work with that both of us forgot that we were on the radio. We were just having a great conversation with a really cool new acquaintance. We left the building wondering what we had said.

I was surprised, two days later, to read an email from Gillian Rodgerson in Toronto saying that she’d just heard the interview. We were told it would run a week later. Heather then wrote from Calgary with another heads up. Connor and I dialed in the CBC Calgary online feed and listened to it in the den. When it was done, Debbie joined us and we listened, again, to the Vancouver feed as it played in real-time.

It really was one of the most delightful interviews I’ve ever done. Shelagh Rogers is beyond professional and has the creative courage of a lion. We wandered fearlessly from topic to topic. She is THE best audience - and it was a total treat to meet and talk to her. And Connor, of course, loved it.

Shelagh said the book should be re-named; “Canada”. God I loved that.

We’ve received permission to post the interview here (and on the Trooper site) so that you can hear it if you missed it. We’re just waiting on the CD from CBC.

Good Stories

A “pre-interview” is an interview that’s never heard, seen or read by anyone. The pre-interviewer’s job is to confirm that a potential radio or tv show guest will have something interesting to say, so that the REAL interviewer won’t find him or herself floating in what media people like to call “dead air”.

Monday’s pre-interviewer was intelligent, charming and funny, and we talked comfortably until she asked me to tell her a couple of stories.

“… like you would tell when you’re all sitting around having a beer.” she hinted. “I just need one from this tour, and maybe one from the early days.”

Despite the fact that I am a seasoned interviewee with not inconsiderable experience in the field, I could not, for the life of me, deliver a story. She needed two. I had zero. I apologized, explaining that stories have always just come up in conversation so I’ve never felt the need to choose some “good” ones for this kind of context-free interview emergency. Being a complete professional, she picked up our conversation as though the request had not been made and we successfully completed the otherwise smooth-sailing simulated interview.

The next day I asked my band-mates to help me develop some party-pieces - at least two good road stories that I could count on. For the next hour, we riffed through a small collection of oft-repeated and familiar tales that still reduce us all to hysterical laughter.

Someone once took three of us out on an expensive and powerful cigarette boat. As they pulled away from the dock, the high-strung skipper admitted it was only his third time at the helm of this souped-up macho racer - and it quickly became terrifyingly obvious that he had never been trained to drive it. After a white knuckled beeline to the middle of the lake, and with no land in sight, he turned off the roaring engines. The shaken passengers were then offered drinks … and cocaine. After nervously declining the fat white lines he had produced, they watched in horror as their host finished all the drugs himself.

This is the kind of story that we tell when we’re having a few beers. I had lied. I have hundreds, probably thousands, of them but I can’t trust myself to know with a certainty that the one I have chosen to tell will turn out to be appropriate for all audiences. This one probably isn’t.

Undeterred, we continued. There was the one about a former Trooper crew member who, at a large outdoor concert, had pissed off so many on-site crew and staff that, when he fell to the stage floor with a painful hernia attack, everyone just stepped over top of him - carrying on with their work.

There was the time when one of the band members, sick with the flu, had us stop the van quickly so he could leap out the side door and vomit impressively in front of a packed restaurant’s dinner patrons.

There was the time when, a former light man driving the gear truck in dense fog in Newfoundland nearly hit a deer and screamed - waking our sleeping merch guy who, disoriented and seeing only a white void beyond the windshield, and deducing that the truck was flying off a cliff, braced his hands and feet against the dashboard screaming “NO! NO! NO!” - waking our tour manager, Mike Pacholuk who calmly surveyed the situation and made a mental note to remember to tell us all about it later.

The search for appropriate stories continues. My real interview is a week away.

Publishing is a Vicious Game

We’d been driving for seven or eight hours and Winnipeg was still too far away to think about. We’d stopped for a piss - and more bottled water. It was dark and see-your-breath chilly. We stood in the spill of convenience store fluorescent light, and talked quietly on our cell phones to our wives and girlfriends.

The new gold Suburban I was leaning up against was overflowing with luggage, jackets, blankets, a pillow, a ukulele, a violin, two computers, empty Starbucks and Tim Hortons cups and cookies from the Alberta Cookie Lady. There was no room in there for personal calls.

Scott, Gogo and Frankie, in the back half of the Suburban, had just watched “Still Crazy” on the onboard DVD player while I watched “Hostage” on my Powerbook in the passenger seat. Smitty, behind the wheel as usual, watched the long, straight and virtually unchanging highway. I was glad for the rest. Our first tour of the season had started with a bigger bang than usual.

My week of CBC National Playlist sessions was followed by interviews with the two local papers. This would be the first time that I would face questions about the book, and I was disturbingly unsure about how I was going to respond. My concern was compounded by the fact that my friends and family would most likely see the results of my potentially amateur inaugural book-promotion efforts. To my great relief both interviews came off without a hitch.

My friend Myles Goodwyn once wrote that “Rock and Roll is a Vicious Game”, which is arguably true, but one of my five interviews on Tuesday made it clear to me that rock and roll’s got nothing on the publishing world. My first interview of the morning was a spirited radio spot with a funny and bright Saskatoon DJ. I was pumped and ready to go when my next call, from an Alberta newspaper entertainment writer, came in. After minimal preliminaries, the writer began to discuss the phenomenon of “books like this”. He made jokes about rocker Brian Volmer’s new Helix book. He told me he was planning a sidebar for my story that would list titles for imaginary books by other rock stars who, he was convinced, were going to write even more “books like this”. He lamented that he was doomed to host a weekly series called “Book Talk with Rockers”. He was reveling in rudeness.

At the point where I was convinced that input from me wouldn’t be necessary for his story - he clearly had all the material he needed - he finally asked me: “So why do we need another book like this?”

“Well, uh, Dickface,” (Dickface is not his real name - I’ve changed it here to avoid potential legal action) “I, uh … you know Brian’s had a pretty intense journey of his own, but I have to say that it’s entirely different than mine in many ways.” I wondered if he could sense the forced smile and the cold, controlled civility.

I continued to speak, as humbly as possible, about writing the book as I carefully considered the idea of hanging up on the guy before I told him to go fuck himself. My wife and son were listening at the kitchen table only a few feet away. I chose to stay the course.

“And what is it …” he asked, warming to his theme “about blogs, that makes you think that we want to read your innermost thoughts from your personal diary?”

“Well, Asshat,” (not his real name), I responded, “it’s not actually my diary …”

And then, like the boxer in “Against the Ropes” the mediocre Meg Ryan movie that Debbie and I watched the other night, I reached my limit, changed up my stance and bit down hard on whatever it is boxers bite down on, and said something like:

“You know, it’s not a diary and it’s not “another book like this”. It’s MY book, and it took me three years to write - and it means a lot to me.”

He paused for a moment - seemingly shaken out of his righteous groove - and then he told me, authoritatively, that I should not be so sensitive.

“I’m just challenging you.” he said, sounding pleased with himself.

“I’m with you” I grinned, “I’m with you.”

Most of the good stuff that appeared in the finished story followed. I went off, and said what I needed to say, convinced that doing otherwise would be a waste of valuable interview time. My favourite part of the interview came when he tried to re-visit the topic of blogs.

“Do you write on your blog about everything that happens to you?”

“No, just things I think people would find interesting.”

“So are you going to write about this on your blog?”

“Oh fuck, yeah” I said.

No Biz Like Show Biz

I arrived at the downtown Vancouver CBC building 40 minutes early – budgeting extra time for a morning rush hour that I’ve obviously had no experience with. The two security guards sent me downstairs to ‘Master Control’, which turned out to be a large room full of gear and one lone technician. He was not expecting me, but directed me to a small, dark room with a chair, a mic, a set of headphones and a beige metal box with only one functional knob – the incoming volume.

“They’ll come on soon.” He promised.

Five minutes before show time, my headphones were still eerily silent. As casually as I could manage, I made a quick second visit to master control.

“They were calling the wrong number,” he said smiling “I gave them the right one”.

I returned to my room and was shuffling through my notes when the Toronto producer said “hello”. He promised that the voice of Jian Gomeshi would soon join us and we went over some technical issues while we waited.

My friend Howard Mandshein, the outrageous and charismatic Winnipeg showbiz icon, had warned me that his week on the National Playlist had been challenging. Sitting alone in my tiny triangular studio I was about to enter into a debate, on national radio, with three people I could not see and did not know, all of whom were gathered in another downtown studio 4000 kilometers away. I reached for my volume knob and cranked it up loud.

What ensued was fun from the start. Jian Gomeshi, Tara Thorne and Dalton Higgins were enthusiastic and entertaining debate-mates and the show, guided by Jian’s innate professionalism, rolled out smoothly and confidently.

My headphones became my lifeline – the focus of my complete attention. My temporal Vancouver reality shrank to the space between my face and the black mic in front of me.

During a break the headphones went quiet again.

Moments later, they crackled, and a new voice broke the silence.

“Hello, Ra?”

“Hey” I answered, confused.

“This is Joe, I’m your engineer here in Toronto. I just wanted to say … thanks for the music”.

I’m smiling as I recall this. I enjoyed meeting and talking to Joe - across the country, through the CBC’s phone lines. He told me he was going to blog about it. And he did.

There’s no business like show business.

Click here to visit Joe Mahoney’s Blog and read about our conversation.

National speed-reading

I’ll be on CBC radio’s National Playlist tomorrow morning at 11:30, and every day after that, at the same time, until Friday. I’ll be part of a team of “music makers, music critics and music lovers” - there will be four of us including host Jian Gomeshi - who will engage in a spirited debate about our favourite music.

Each guest brings in two songs (one new, one old) that they think should make it to the playlist. 8 songs are debated but only 4 make it to the weekly top ten - like ‘Survivor’.

I’ve written two “pitches” for the songs I’m proposing and I’ve massaged them into fifty-second sound bites for the show. This has necessitated multiple re-writes followed by a crash course in reading them very quickly. Tomorrow I will sit in a downtown CBC studio by myself and pretend I’m hanging with the other panelists in Toronto. At some point in the week I’ll be asked to present my pitches. I don’t think anyone at CBC will mind if I share them with you now. I enjoyed writing them and it seems like such a waste to have them go by so quickly on the air.

So here they are:

The Motown Records building in Detroit may have been demolished in January but the power and glory of the Motown Sound lives on, forty years after The Temptations recorded their first number one hit: My Girl. The song opens with one of the most famous bass lines in pop music history, followed by the most recognizable guitar hook of all time. When David Ruffin sings the opening line – the musical sun comes out and stays out. Written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White from the Miracles, sung by one of the most successful groups in black music history - backed up by the world’s greatest house band - My Girl was destined for Hitzville - but the track has an additional magic that transcends the sum of its parts. Structurally, the song is pure genius and the seamless and brilliantly detailed arrangement contains one of my favourite bridges. Where else could the words “hey hey hey” convey so much meaning while simultaneously uniting the world in a blissful singalong moment.

I was preparing to write my pitch for The Arcade Fire’s “Crown of Love” when it occurred to me to check and see if it was, in fact, released in the last 12 months as the criteria for the show requires. Sadly, neither the AF album nor the most recent Weakerthans album made the cut. I defaulted to a great song from the new Bright Eyes record. This is what I will (quickly) say:

I was not a convinced fan of Connor Oberst and his band Bright Eyes, until I heard the quirky, jerky and totally engaging track – ‘The Arc of Time’. Mr. Oberst must be tiring of his “boy wonder” status. It’s hard enough to create a recording that is both innovative and listenable, lyrically meaningful and musically engaging without having to deal with the complication of a critical press with high and often specific expectations. It takes courage to confound your fans, and I admire this well crafted entry into the critically dangerous pop-song arena that confidently avoids any pop formula that I know about. Built on the dated bones of a Bo Diddley beat, this track knows instinctively when to change up – when to add and when to take away. The performances are infectious, the lyric cuts “to the deepest part of the human heart” … but most of all - I like the way it moves.