Created by Arthur Black
Arthur Black is host of Basic Black, heard across the country every Saturday morning for the past seventeen years on CBC Radio. In previous incarnations, he’s been an underwear salesman, farm hand, sheet metal apprentice, magazine writer, comic book editor and freelance fruit picker. In July of 1995, Arthur had the great good sense to point the hood ornament of his aging Jeep due West, carrying his Boon Companion Lynne, three quarters of a ton of books and aging mutt Rufus from Ontario to Salt Spring Island which lies halfway between Vancouver the City and Vancouver the Island. That’s where he now lives except for the three days a week he spends in Vancouver helping to put Basic Black together.
In addition, Black host the award-winning television show Weird Homes, on the Life Television Network and writes a syndicated newspaper column that appears in 40-odd (and we mean odd) newspapers from Saltspring to Grand Falls, Newfoundland.
Black has also written eight books, two of which won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.
Despite these accomplishments, Black still cannot hit a golf ball, jump start a dead battery or program his VCR.
VIRGIN EARS FOR VINTAGE MUSIC
When you turn 35, something happens to the music.
I know whereof Mister Lees speaks. I remember, as a tadpole in the ‘50’s, lying on my parents’ living room floor watching a dreary succession of unfunny comedians, corny musical acts and lame-o jugglers, clowns and animal trainers on a television program called The Tommy Dorsey show. Typical Sunday evening in the 1950’s.
Here is the host, Tommy Dorsey introducing this weird-looking performer wearing a white sports coat and a duck-tail haircut. He has a guitar which he commences to flail as he begins to sing.
My life is changed forever.
I’d never seen or heard anything like it. I couldn’t have been more galvanized if I’d stuck my privates in a light socket. Me and thousands of others. I was watching the TV debut of a musical phenomenon called Elvis Aaron Presley.
That was the big shock of that Sunday evening. The secondary tremor was the reaction of my parents who were also watching. They hated him. They were angry, abusive even. “What does he think he’s doing, the clown,” scoffed my father. “Can’t even understand the words he’s singing,” said my mother.
And my revelation, even as a chubby pre-pubescent was: they don’t get it.
Flash forward a half century. A couple of kids I know are listening to some rapcrap on a CD from some guy named 50 Cent. “That’s not music,” I snort. “That’s doggerel. And illiterate doggerel at that.”
The kids’ eyes roll in unison and I have another revelation. Omigod, I think. I’ve become my Old Man.
Well, maybe. But let me introduce you – here in the sixth year of the 21st century -- to David Zeke, a high school student who’s not quite old enough to drink, drive or join the armed forces, but seriously into music. What kind of music?
The Who. The Beatles. Early Neil Young and vintage Dylan.
Music, in short, that’s old enough to be his grandfather.
And it’s not just David Zeke – all his buddies at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Washington are into this Paleozoic rock and roll too. They’ve formed a group called the Classic Rock Appreciation Society. They meet every Friday afternoon to talk about and listen to the music they love.
Pink Floyd. Jethro Tull. Led Zeppelin.
“I’m a classic rock guy’, says 16-year-old John Jaskot, one of the club members. “It all started in sixth grade when my sister played ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen for me, and I was like: Whoa! I started going through my Dad’s records. Now I listen to Jethro Tull with him. My whole family does – including my brother, who’s 6.”
What about the current music scene? Hip hop, Global? New World?
Not for these guys. You won’t be hearing Eminem at a meeting of the Classic Rock Appreciation Society. Zeke’s take: “The music industry has turned into a factory that’s just churning out stuff.’
John McDermott, a music industry watcher, agrees. “Music is countercultural again,” he says. Kid’s don’t think it’s their parents’ music; they just view it as cool music that’s not sold to them by MTV.”
Such talk must be music to John Densmore’s ears. Densmore is the man who played drums on Doors classics like Light My Fire, People Are Strange and Break On Through (to the Other Side). And yes, he’s still alive. And kicking plenty.
Multi-national corporations have been knocking on Densmore’s door waving multi-million dollar cheques and begging for the right to use Doors songs as soundtracks to peddle real estate, pick-up trucks and toothpaste.
Densmore’s telling them all to take a ride. “People lost their virginity to this music,” says Densmore. “I’ve had people say kids died in Vietnam listening to this music, others say they know someone who didn’t commit suicide because of this music.” Recently Cadillac waved a $15 million offer under the noses of surviving Doors band members in exchange for the use of “Break On Through” to sell luxury SUVs.
Densmore told Cadillac to stuff it. “Onstage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That’s not for rent.”
Good on ya, Densmore. Thanks to geezers like you -- and newbies like David Zeke -- Neil Young may have been right when he sang:
“My my, hey hey. Rock and Roll is here to stay.”