Growing Up Can-eh-dian in the 90s: Part 2

everybody dance now...
October 23, 2017
Music. Music for me has always held a very special place in my life. Like many teenage boys in the 90s before me, I was immersed in every type of music, from classics, to then-contemporary, to rubbish, to whatever the boy-band/girl-band era was called.

But before we jump right into it, a little background...

How did we consume music

On this level, we were equal to our American cousins. We had it "all", panasonic shockwaves, walk/discmans, and if we mustered enough allowance we rocked the JVC Kaboom.

I still remember listening to my dubbed tape of Appetite for Destruction on repeat...before there was a Christmas that my brothers and I got matching walkmans.

But believe it or not (to any kid born post 1999), music was not consumed entirely on personal devices. Don't get me wrong, when I wanted to single handedly support the rechargeable battery industry, I would rock my Walkman. But the problem was you likely had only 15-20 songs on a tape (both sides....record scratch), and radio was infested with poppy songs appearing in Jennifer Love Hewitt movies.

So we got down like our American cousins with music videos. We didn't always have MTV in Canada (and to this point, do we really have MTV now????) so Canadians watched the next best thing: Much Music (and french language Musique Plus whenever an artist was performing live or you wanted to hear the explicit lyrics). Much Music had your basic VJ set up, with mildly entertaining VJs. The ones that were any good were abducted to the US. But they had some cool Much on Demand /TRL like show in the afternoons that brought some big stars to Canada. And like MTV, Much Music eventually evaporated into a musicless medium, littered with shows about lying, gossiping girls, and a very annoying Music Video Jury show they beat to death.

If you were channel surfing late nights on the weekend, you might get to see one of Canada's perhaps least known gems: Electric Circus. It was like a trashy Euro-club exploded onto Canadian television. These weren't Soul Train dancers either. This was Kimmie and Derek from Etobicoke dancing through a Darude Sandstorm like it was nobody's business.

If you were really starving for music, you could wait to catch an update on YTV's Video and Arcade Top 10, which was a video game show but had a music segment. This show would have a music segment, and they offered CDs to viewers who would waste a stamp and 60 minutes of their lives sending mail to answer some softball question about the name of Barenaked Ladies' upcoming studio album they literally JUST mentioned 3 times.

But let's say you needed to buy some music ...

So for some reason you don't know anyone with a CD/tape deck combo, or dubbing capabilities on a 30 year old stereo with red light level indicators to be able to make yourself a mixtape. Well, it must be time to hit up your local Tony Hawk Pro Skater mall. Some stores that we had/have/might still have:
- CD Universe/CD Warehouse or some CD variant name
- Digging through $5 gems at Zellers or Walmart
Or maybe you got your act together ahead of time and put in an order with the Consumers Distributing Catalogue for some obscure general listening artist compilation...

this gem of a "store" was an early model for Amazon. Basically warehouse stores, where you could go place orders, pick up catalog orders, or fill in a scantron like order sheet for something in the backroom. This store had it all. And by all, of course, I mean barely anything. But their catalogs were a staple around Christmas time whenever you were down with some book report, you could get your October 27th Christmas Spirits up by looking at some Lego or Playmobil set. Don't remember their music selection, but I do remember they had a handful of multimedia grouped together on a page or two.

Before Video was able to kill the radio star ...

Look, we weren't the crazy generation who would just listen to the radio voluntarily. We only did it when we were forced to. Maybe you are in a car traveling to sports on the weekend, shopping. or getting a drive to a dentist appointment during the day. Canadian radio was okay. We got the big weekend countdown feeds from the US on our "Kool" radio (Easter egg for any of you from that town).

I grew up in a major city in Canada, and I would say we never had more than 5 or 6 major radio stations on the air at any given point. But the radio also had some enticing aspects for any young kid. You could call in and make requests and if lucky enough to get on air, hear your echo delayed voice as you listen at the same time. There were contests galore. They showed up to places and handed out free Swag. But for me, radio wasn't what it was today and played mostly safe pop music. Which brings me to my next topic...

Who did I listen to

Believe it or not, I would have to say that for the 90s the musical act that dominated my brain was Wu-Tang, specifically 36 Chambers. I was in middle school at the time it made its way to me 3 years after release. But I was all over it, together with my "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothing to F#@! with" shirt.

But my tastes were also broad: 2pac's 17 studio albums released between 1992-1996, LL Cool J, Tribe Called Quest, Snow, Rascalz, Choclair, Green Day Dookie, Smashing Pumpkins, Offspring, ...I could go on.

We obviously absorbed a bunch of US music, and other than Alannis Morrissette, Bryan Adams and Celine Dion, there wasn't a lot of Canadian content to pick from.

And once Blink 182 found its way up north, it was pretty much over...

With our music acting as our personal soundtracks, we looked for something to do to have fun. Thankfully being a kid in Canada was fun for a lot of reasons. So many, it will have to wait until Part 3.
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