Most of us have one or two really talented friends. Y'know, those gifted, smart and…
- Posted on Feb 9th 2012 1:00PM by Lonny Knapp
Courtesy of Pheromone Recordings
The title track about a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is based on a poem by author Paul Quarrington -- a name that's probably familiar to Rheostatics fans (in 1992, the band released 'Whale Music,' an album based on a Quarrington book). "I like the way it talks about feeling like a misfit in this world," Bidini tells Spinner, referencing the poem they turned into a free-flowing, eight-minute album closer that pays tribute to the late Quarrington. "It touched on my feelings about rock, and rock history."
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame appears to have weighed heavily on Bidini as of late, as he recently released a biography on Hall of Famer Gordon Lightfoot. Fascinatingly (and frustratingly for Bidini), the Canadian folk-rock icon declined to be a part of the project. That the Rheostatics recorded a version of Lightfoot's 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald' didn't seem to sway the legend, either.
"I tried to talk to him, but a wall went up," admits Bidini. "So I ended up writing a letter to appeal to him. My editor read that letter and thought I should include it in the book. So, I continued to write letters to him, and that is how 'Writing Gordon Lightfoot' was generated."
Bidini's move to frame his book as a collection of unanswered letters to the Lightfoot is pretty creative but you'd expect some serious think-outside-the-box brainpower from a guy who writes a song about "Eunoia," the shortest word in the English language that contains all five vowels.
For 'Eunoia' -- which means "beautiful thinking" and is based on experimental poet Christian Bök's award-winning collection of the same name -- Bidini sets music to verses plucked from Bök's univocal lipograms (poems composed using a single vowel) to create a far-reaching, five-part, genre-defying prog-rock epic.
"Even though his book has a lot of structure, it's making up its own rules -- I took that approach musically," he says. "I didn't have any boundaries; I just did whatever I was compelled to do over the course of the song. At the end of the 11 minutes, it is such a banquet."
Not all of the tracks on 'In the Rock Hall' are so heady. 'Last of the Dead Wrong Things' is a straight-ahead fist-pumping rocker with a sing-along chorus, and 'The Best Thing About the '80s Was You' with its vocoder vocals and mentions of Corey Hart and Pat Benatar is plain silly. Still, even these tracks are more clever than the vacuous drivel that dominates the pop charts.
When Bidini formed the Rheostatics in 1980, he and his bandmates set out to prove that rock music wasn't synonymous with dumb music. Now, 32 years later, he continues that quest on 'In the Rock Hall.'
"At that time, rock and roll was considered a lesser art here in Canada. It wasn't afforded the same distinction that other artistic forums received. We wanted to prove that our craft and art form was every bit as valid as anything written by a great novelist," he says.
"It's been a crusade of mine to elevate rock music."