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Vinyl Tap Stories - Randy Bachman - A book review · 5.10.14 by colin newell

Randy Bachman Vinyl Tap Stories reviewed

If you were as lucky as I was, young and impressionable, growing up in the mid-sixties – you were about to face down a musical and cultural revolution like no other in Canadian history. And if you were fortunate enough to be of that delicate age and being raised in Canada, you were most definitely in the front row seats for dramatic change, evolution, and revolution where everything the establishment held dear… would be turned on its ear…

At least for a while.

That was the mid-sixties. Growing up in the relatively idyllic confines of the West Coast on the Southern tip of Vancouver Island, a kid like me was surrounded by change – coming at me from all directions. And like any other kid growing up in Canada, our soundtrack was AM radio and Black and White television. And at the time, the AM radio generally got in way more of our attention than the TV.

TV for us, was restricted to the handful of channels we could pick up from a roof top mounted antenna system. And as I recall, we could pick from the following: Channel 2 (CBC Vancouver), Channel 4 (ABC Seattle), Channel 5 (NBC Seattle), Channel 6 (CHEK Victoria) – Channels 7,8,9 would come in depending on the weather conditions – and channels 11 and 12 (CBS Bellingham) would pretty reliable as well. In the 999 channel Universe in which we live, that would seem pretty limiting, but in fact, it was everything.

The TV may have provided the news (often grim reports from Vietnam, global strife in the Middle East, and rioting in the streets of America…) but it was the AM radio that provided the background music, the driving rhythm of our lives. It touched me. It touched every kid of every stripe anywhere in Canada. The CBC and independent AM radio would guarantee that. It was on a portable AM radio that I would tote with my everywhere where I would first hear the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Doors… and soon, very soon, Canadian popular music!

AM radio in the mid-sixties was generally all American and British all of the time. From time to time one would hear a Canadian artist on the radio but they were generally not identified as such – because it was not cool to be Canadian. It would be the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, The Guess Who, Joni Mitchell, David Clayton-Thomas, Ian and Sylvia, Niel Young, and many others in turn who would change the very ways we perceived ourselves as Canadians and how we forged a place for ourselves in the global music experience.

In Randy Bachman’s uncompromisingly complete “Vinyl Tap Stories”, he outlines, with impeccable and unrelenting detail, his journey, key role, partnership and often incidental participation in so much of the 60’s (and 70’s) mosaic. It was, after all, Randy and his musical partner Burton Cummings, who would musically score the theme music to every Canadian kid’s life between the age of 4 and 24 in the late sixties. Their songs, along with hit after hit by Gordon Lightfoot became part of our fabric, woven into our very nature, defining us as creative and sentient individuals… Canadians all!

Randy’s style, it should be noted, it not particularly dry or clinical – His easy going repartee is that of a story telling uncle… everything in no particular order… but his historical accounting is generally dictionary perfect with lots of “Hey, even I didn’t know that!” twists and turns at the end of many of his accounts.

Randy establishes, early on, that with a lot of hard work, sobriety, faith, dedication and unflinching focus (and a little actual creative talent thrown in…) that even a kid from Winnipeg (and some friends) can put it all on the line and make something big for themselves, and ultimately their fellow Canadians.

And they did. And the Guess Who would put Canada on the map of global cultural history and the history of rock for all time. In later incarnations of Randy Bachman’s musical vision (with the likes of the bands Brave Belt and Bachman Turner Overdrive), he would create music that was shoe-horn fit-perfect for the next generation of kids being raised on radio rock and roll.

Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Stories is not just a book about the work of The Guess Who – it is a wonderful read on the important history of Canada’s place in the counter cultural mind-set of the time. Furthermore, Randy reveals the many influences that every other successful English and American artist had on him and his Winnipeg based musical collaborators. There are even passages about how Antonín Leopold Dvořák (a late 19th century Czech composer) influenced one of his songs!

Randy Bachman is one of very few, if any, important artists in our time that reveals the inner secrets of so many of these great songs – how they came into being – the moments of their conception and so on. If you are a music lover or practicing musician (as I am…) you will love the sweetness of each and every reveal.

Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Stories is a welcome addition to my “Canadian heavy” musical library and a perfect companion piece to his tireless radio program “Vinyl Tap” on CBC Radio. Enjoy!

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The Lonely End of the Rink - Grant Lawrence - book review · 1.10.14 by colin newell

Lonely End of the Rink - an Canadian experience from Grant Lawrence

Regardless of the decade you grew up, in the last 50 years of the Canadian mosaic – one common theme provided the paving stones for your journey: rock and roll music and outdoor winter sports… most likely hockey.

And chances are, your fabric of choice in this environment would have been denim, leather or blue corduroy – your allowed uniform determined by membership, in cliques often limited to the rockers, the greasers and the rest of us; the young, naive, anxiety ridden innocents lacking a defined identity.

As the twentieth century drifted to its conclusion, several elements of fashion would appear along with more choices in group membership, arguably better music but some (if not all) of the common rites of passage would remain constant; the ever present fear and loathing of growing up in an environment rich with bullying, perceived violence and the emotional roller coaster of adolescence.

In this Grant Lawrence follow up to Adventure in Solitude, he captures the timeless essence of the Canadian male coming of age story – in a rugged and relentless environment of doubt and seemingly endless bullying from his peers.

Here in the 21st Century, bullying has finally been brought into acute focus – for its actual emotional and physical body count. In its engaging first half, Grant pulls us along for a gripping and visceral snapshot of his formative years as he takes us on a dizzying ride down painfully familiar territory.

What separates our now graying and rough sewn memories of youth from Grant’s testimonial is the colorfully crude reminiscence of the accompanying sound track – a veritable letter perfect chronology of regional punk and independent rock – something Grant recalls with impeccable detail worthy of a Ken Burns documentary, all the while illustrating his transformation from a geeky and awkward jock-hating nerd to a place of redemption, contrition and maturity.

The Lonely end of the Rink is actually three books in one (maybe four) – the first half outlines the 12 year adventure of Grants passage from child to teenager in the public school system. In its second half and denouement, Grant discovers the raw power of facing his childhood demons with the blade, the blocker and braving the bully on a level and albeit frozen playing surface.

Sutured into the fabric of this dialogue is a 30 year retrospective of Canadian hockey and a quirky matrix of Canadian musical genuflections – bowing towards hockey, its history, its tragedies, successes and absurdities and how utterly and irrevocably intertwined all these elements are in the Canadian experience.

Grants Lonely Rink is a brisk and bracing icy breeze in your face, a rock and pop cultural timeline and an immensely respectful first person tribute to Canada’s great frozen obsession – impossible to put down until the final period. Gritty, accurate and equally painful, it is a welcome addition to the Grant Lawrence collection of great stories.

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Victoria Farm Life - farmers downsizing - tools for sale · 11.08.14 by colin newell

Tools for sale

A colleague of mine is downsizing from her and her husbands farm for the time being.

And they have some great tools that need a warm new home – in the right hands, tools produce great things.

If any of these items appeal to you, send some e-mail to the address provided.

I have my eye on the compressor and nail gun… and I blame you Paul LaFrance and your endless patio/deck rebuilds!

e-mail [email protected]


Stihl MS200T limbing chainsaw – $400

Near new Stihl MS230 chainsaw $350

Sold — Craftsman compound mitre saw – $70

Rivet gun – $10

Dewalt 4.5” angle grinder – $40

2 Porter cable nail guns, with nails, two sets of hoses, and compressor – $200

Dewalt orbital sanders – $25 and $40

Sold — Rigid belt sander, used once – $125

Dewalt cordless reciprocating saw – $40

Dewalt cordless skillsaw – $90

Dewalt cordless jigsaw – $80


Interested in any of these items: e-mail [email protected]

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Summer Food Fun and Drink 2009 Chapter 6 B.C. Transit to suspend Charter Rights for one day · 30.06.14 by colin newell

Ride the Bus - stay safe... unless you have booze!

Heading to a garden party across town on Canada Day? A blog reboot from 2009!

Arborbrook Pinot Noir Vintner’s Select 2006 at $67 a bottle (U.S.) is a remarkable grape. Any party host would welcome you with open arms.

This huge wine hits you harder than a jilted bride with bigger-than-Rita McNeil style – and flavors: fat, voluptuous with powerful fruit seasoned with ungodly quantities of exotically spicy new oak.

And if you are thinking about doing the right thing and leaving your car at home on Canada Day – I mean, doing the Legally right thing… by not drinking and driving – by taking the Bus (with this great Wine in your Man-Bag…) well think again Cowboys and Cowgirls!

B.C. Transit will have a ZERO alcohol policy on Canada Day – regardless of whether or not you are sober, wearing priestly garb or doing an emergency delivery to your favorite grape fan.

Even if you have this sealed Wine double paper bagged and sealed in your ruck sack, the folks at B.C. Transit will be taking it from you – after they illegally search you… violating your Charter Rights.

And sure, you can avoid the shake down by not taking the bus…

But that is not the point.

You have the right to ride the bus and you have the right not to be searched without probable cause.

So. Buy yourself a big fat bottle a grape and find an alternate form of transport… because you will not be riding the bus on Canada Day if you have any sober and peaceful plans to attend a civilized social somewhere!

Click here to read it from the B.C. Transit webpage.


This blog re-boot from 2009 is made available to you from the good people at the CoffeeCrew blog.

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If you can read this, thank your teacher - chapter 1 · 18.06.14 by colin newell

Teachers at war with the government

Had coffee with some of my work buddies this AM – and so clueless about what the life of teachers is like…
Nothing like a totally one sided discussion to get ones java boiling in the mug!

Anyway, I felt like sending them back to Elementary school… maybe Grade 1 even.

During the various rants various myths emerged – with my factual responses attached…

MYTH a.) Teachers work 180 days a year and get paid for 365 days a year.
FACT: They get paid for the days worked and the time in – Yes, they get a pay cheque year around for days worked – and consequently, their pay packets are about equal to 10 months work or more.

MYTH b.) Teachers get every summer off.
FACT: Many teachers work part time through the summer getting ready for the coming year.

MYTH c.) Teachers DON’T need to work in the summer because they have one set of lesson plans that they can use for their entire career.
FACT: Lesson plans and curricula change year by year depending on the needs of the students and the evolution of education.

MYTH d.) Teachers are overpaid!
FACT: No, bankers are overpaid… and even that is a bit of a stretch. Bankers make investors money (like you and I) which we appreciate.

MYTH e.) You cannot fire incompetent teachers because of the Union.
FACT: Progressive discipline is in effect in most unions and professional organizations. Bad teachers that break the law or, at the other end of the extreme, don’t do their jobs simply don’t survive.

Hey, if you can read this post and understand it (you might not agree with it…) Thank your teachers.


Colin Newell is a writer, technical analyst and engineering technologist at a local University that often gets asked… “Hey. Colin. What do you do on your summers off from working at a University?

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Buying a house in Victoria B.C. Canada - the series · 27.05.14 by colin newell

House - found and bought... finally

Andrea and I, after over a decade of searching for the perfect place…

Have found a new home. And we will be taking possession and moving in later on in July.

This is a culmination of over a decades worth of effort. And I know what some of you are thinking…

“What took you so long? Ten years!? Your realtor must have died of shock or exhaustion. Think of all your lost time…”

And so on.

Picture – Standing in front of the house that Colin (and Andrea) bought!

Truth be told, we have been in a really nice suite in a great neighborhood with great water views and high above everything… but a kitchen the size of a large cardboard box – a galley kitchen… and this is what has been dragging us down for quite a few years. Lack of a decent kitchen and a guest ready 2nd bedroom has curtailed our life in ways that, yea, we will never get back… but now is a time for celebration and moving forward…

And a great opportunity to kick this blog back into gear and get some readers back.

So there it is – I will be talking about the joys of the search. The upside and downside of house hunting in some of the richest neighborhoods in North America (with a limited budget…) and
the necessity of buckling down and spending over 20 years saving for the house of our dreams…

Coming up. On the Coffeecrew blog.

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