MUSIC EXPRESS BOOK REVISITS A GOLDEN ERA

MUSIC EXPRESS BOOK REVISITS A GOLDEN ERA

Posted on April 17 by Keith Sharp
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The book we’ve been talking about on themusicexpress.ca magazine for the past 18 months, will be available online and in your favourite book store in May when “Music Express – The Rise, Fall and Resurrection Of Canada’s Music Magazine (Dundurn Press) finally rolls off the presses.

Those of you who were involved or aware of the Canadian music industry in the mid-Seventies and throughout the Eighties will I am sure be aware of Music Express magazine, the intended one-time tabloid published by yours truly in October 1976 to publicize a feature by former Calgary music group, The Stampeders which I had written for the Calgary Herald newspaper. A story which was rejected when the paper’s music critic, Brian Brennan, trashed the band’s Calgary Stampede concert appearance a few days before the story was due to run in that paper’s weekend supplement.

As a result, Music Express was launched, originally as a one-off issue, just to run that feature, but then as the Alberta-based record retail chain, Kellys’, (which distributed that debut issue), reported a strong response to the tabloid, Music Express (or Alberta Music Express, as it was initially called) developed, first as a side-line hobby for me whilst I still toiled in the Calgary Herald sports department. And then, as a full time venture when I quit the Herald and joined forces with Dutch-born Conny Kunz to take the re-titled Music Express full time, initially based in Calgary but then moving to Toronto in 1980 to set up shop as Canada’s national music magazine.

Those of you who weren’t around in the Seventies missed out on a golden era of Canadian music. CRTC regulations forced all Canadian radio stations to play at least 35% Canadian content, which encouraged  domestic based head offices of major multi-national labels like Capitol-EMI,  Warner/Elektra/Atlantic, Columbian/Epic, MCA, A&M, RCA and Polydor to all develop healthy Canadian rosters in support of  their super-star international lineups.

What also followed was a whole raft of top independent labels like Anthem, Attic, True North, Aquarius, Mushroom and Solid Gold which cultivated top regional talent like Rush, Triumph, April Wine, Corey Hart, Bruce Cockburn, Lee Aaron, Chilliwack and the Headpins. These artists blossomed into major global talent which joined ranks with Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Burton Cummings, Bryan Adams, Loverboy,Trooper and Celine Dion to establish Canada as a truly global musical force.

Music Express was launched just as all of this excitement was taking place.  The Canadian record industry was thriving, at a time long before i Pads and downloading virtually killed off the majority of retail record sales, major albums were being released on a weekly basis and it seemed every major title was going gold (50,000 unit sales), platinum (100,000 unit sales) or even diamond (one million unit sales), retail figures which these days are virtually unheard of.

Music Express was there when the likes of Loverboy, Bryan Adams , Triumph and Glass Tiger burst onto the music scene, we interviewed the bands, reviewed their albums and covered their concerts, even at a time when it was considered `uncool’ to support domestic talent. And it’s a relationship that Music Express has maintained to this very day with the re-launch of our online publication (themusicexpress.ca).

To be very honest, it took me a while to be convinced to write this book. I honestly didn’t think that Canada’s general public would be interested in a book about the domestic music scene, but a couple of individuals, namely Conny Kunz and my dear Calgarian friend Doug Wong convinced me otherwise.

And when you look back and realize that our little Calgary-born operation blossomed into a national magazine that in 1986 was picked up for U.S newsstand circulation by Warner Distributors and then became the in store magazine for Minneapolis-based retail powerhouse Musicland/Sam Goody, Music Express did okay for itself.

So with the publishing of Music Express, The Rise, Fall and Resurrection Of Canada’s Music Magazine, you have a detailed account of exactly what happened during those giddy years of touring the world with top Canadian and International talent, of having bureaus in Los Angeles, New York and London and at one time publishing a special issue (November 1987) with a print run of 1.3 million copies!

In completing my chronological account of those heady years, I finished up with a tome of Stephen King-like proportions, yet with the painful prodding of my Dundurn Press editor, Michael Melgaard, was arm-twisted into reducing the size of the book down to a readable length. This of course meant a lot of  amazing content had to be edited out of the book.

Yes it has been an amazing journey with lots of fun memories and those memories have been packed into a book which I believe will not only entertain you but will also provide a print legacy for a golden era in Canadian music.

Keith Sharp

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
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Keith Sharp

Keith Sharp is a former sportswriter for the Calgary Herald who launched Alberta Music Express as a hobby in July 1976, going full-time with Music Express in 1978. Sharp also launched Access Magazine in June 1995. The native of Manchester, England, runs themusicexpress.ca and lives in Toronto.