Pope Benedict 16 is resigning, February 28, due to failing health. This will be the first resignation in 600 years. Most Popes die on the throne although it might take a few days to realize they’re dead.
Cardinals around the world are gathering to elect a new Pope with one likely candidate being 68 year old Marc Ouellette of Canada. A North American! That would be new and raises the question of him bringing a North American sensibility to his campaign.
“I’m calling myself The Pope of Hope. Like it?”
What kind of hope?
“The usual things, getting a better job, getting to be first in line, finding a parking spot, passing your health exam, seeing your team get to number one.”
Shouldn’t hope be more than that?
“Well, it could be, but if you’re talking about getting into heaven that will cost you.”
“That’s relative, but the Catholic church didn’t get to be as wealthy as it is by charging nothing. Hoping to get into heaven requires more than faith. I keep thinking of that lady who is buying a stairway to heaven.”
From that Led Zeppelin song, Stairway To Heaven. Surely, you know it.”
I do, but I’m surprised you know it.
“C’mon. I’m 68. I’m Canadian. I was young when that song came on FM radio. From Led Zeppelin’s fourth album. Been a long time since I rock and rolled, woman. Been a long time, been a long time, been a lonely, lonely ‚lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time.”
Does this mean you’ll be hipper than previous Popes?
“Hope — there’s that word again — so. ”
You’ll strive for reform, then.
“There’s only so much you can do.”
“You have to start somewhere, and the easiest place is to say no to everything.”
“Are you nuts?”
So, at least at first, this will be the same old Catholic teaching.
“Sure. But there’s always hope.”
The most powerful person at CYVR was the woman who operated the cash register at the the cafeteria.
There was a dial on the wall beside her. If she didn’t like the music — which was often — she could turn off CYVR or turn it down. There’d be silence through out the University of British Columbia’s Student Union Building.
Eventually, CYVR became CITR and got itself organized to the point where it’s now celebrating its 75th anniversary. It has 30 year old shows about reggae, folk and rap. It has podcasts. A monthly music mag, Discorder, itself 30 years old. It presents weekly battles of the bands, Shindig.
Last month, it threw a reunion for CITR alumni with guest air shifts, tours, a concert and a champagne brunch. I was invited to the last, but couldn’t attend. If I had, I might have told a few stories about the time I was the station’s Music “Dictator,” and the station was, perhaps, at its lowest ebb.
At the time, the early 70s, CYVR was trying to get a cable license and later to go to FM, which it eventually did. Then, though, the station was heard at the SUB and was transmitted into three dormitories. We bragged that we were heard by thousands of listeners. The truth was that the transmitters often were not working and if the woman at the cash register didn’t like us, the only person who could hear CYVR was the person in the broadcast booth.
We needed money for such things as the repair of the transmitters and to hire proper management, but we had no credibility. Funding, thus, was hard to come by. I remember that one writer from the Ubyssey, the campus newspaper situated to the station, sneered as he asked what it was like to be a pretend radio station.
We weren’t pretending. We wanted to be a real station. We were facing a lot of basic problems and were still managing to be of service. At least one record company promo rep used CYVR for elaborate promotions while others would bring by current acts to be interviewed live on the air. We also did a few productions and aspiring jocks used the facility to make demos.
For my part as Music Dictator, I had a few problems of my own. I would publish a top 30 list and would mail them. The hope was that the on air personnel would play songs from the list and write them down. They seldom did. Most preferred to play album tracks or songs from their own record collection. In the end, I wouldn’t say the top 30 was bogus, but was more a reflection of what I liked and backed.
Then, too, somebody was stealing new records from the music library. It was my bright idea to deface the albums with big felt pen writing that selected prime cuts and brief, usually sarcastic, critiques. Some were silly or sexist or both. Sorry. The thinking was that nobody would want such marked up albums. The ploy worked only slightly but the thefts continued. Once in a while I see the handiwork and am embarrassed.
I hung out at CYVR, spending most of the time cutting classes and zipping into the SUB pub. Thus, I was privy to what CYVR hoped to accomplish — if it had funding, if it had everybody’s cooperation. Some of us wanted to be different and be an alternative to the commercial AM stations. Others wanted to be exactly like the commercial stations with identical playlists, legitimate news broadcasts and a professional air.
That was impossible as long as there were so-called jocks who used the airtime to eat lunch in private and bliss out to a side of Van Morrison or the Moody Blues. Not that it mattered. Who cared if you were in search of the lost chord if the woman in the cafeteria had turned you off.
It took a few months but I finally saw the film Rock Of Ages.
Rock Of Ages is a rock musical starring Tom Cruise as a decadent rock star and features covers of songs by Journey, Foreigner, Night Ranger, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar. The place is Hollywood, the time is 1987, but this could be any place or time since the incursion of rock and roll in the 1950s — a conservative group led by Catherine Zeta-Jones wants to shut down a barely surviving club (run by Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin) because it’s a rallying point for morally destitute youth in the thrall of the Cruise character. Remarkably, drugs aren’t even mentioned, which makes L.A. 1987 a kind of Neverland. All the twists and turns get straightened out; villains exposed, wrongs righted, and rock prevails. As a plot, it’s one long cliche but does speak to the power of rock and roll, the rock of ages.
It’s a weird speech, though.
I wish I’d seen the film before reviewing a Journey, Loverboy and Night Ranger concert in early December. There were 9500 people at Rogers, which is impressive for bands whose best years were 25 years ago, or the time of Rock Of Ages. Most of the people I talked to before the show couldn’t tell me much about the bands,. The most they knew about Night Ranger, for example, was that it recorded Sister Christian, which, significantly, is the first song covered in the film. A woman volunteered that she didn’t care who was in Journey now; she was there for the songs.
Ah, the songs.
This was a reminder that most of these bands were dismissed by the media as faceless. Interchangeable examples of corporate rock. Yet those bands were enormously popular, people bought the records and nostalgically still attend the concerts. They might not be familiar with who is in the bands bands but they know the songs. Even I knew the songs, and didn’t like them originally, dismissing them as peurile but evidently not understanding the truth the fans saw in the lyrics. The media underestimated their lasting power and impact.
There is a moment in the film that anticipates the future — rap and pop– and declares that rock is dead. Again? The trend to hip hop is some years away so the movie has jumped the gun there. What actually buried this rock was another kind of rock — grunge — led by Nirvana and Pearl Jam - but the point is that the industry moved on to what it perceived as the next thing and ignored the wants and needs of the public that evidently still craved rock. Still wanted those songs, even if the people who made them were faceless.
Rock Of Ages captures a transcendent time. It alludes to Tipper Gore with her Parents Music Resource Centre and the decadent, self-absorbed lifestyle of Motley Crue and especially Guns N’Roses’ Axl Rose. Chain record stores are still in business. Cassettes still exist. Mobile phones are big. As is hair.
If I’d seen the movie first, I would have gone to the Journey, Loverboy, Night Ranger concert with a different appreciation. It wasn’t really about the bands. It was about their songs. It was the rock of the age. And it still is.