Tuesday, June 24, 2003

works in progress department—test pattern, part one

I tried to post this tale a week ago, but Blogger ate it up. This has been split into 2 parts, with the thrilling conclusion tomorrow...

As mentioned in an earlier post, I tend to start stories/journals/etc based on ideas bouncing through my head, but never let them reach fruition. Mostly they’ve been attempts to kickstart the writing juices that vanished back in '99 after the black comedy that was working at the Ontarion (the University of Guelph's newspaper). From brief spurts of journal writing (occasional steady runs, but mostly printouts of e-mails) to attempts to write in different personas, nothing has taken hold (the latter was one of the kookier ones, inspired by an exhibit of photographer Cindy Sherman at the AGO. Rambled on about at length with a friend once, but made it sound like it was much further along than it actually was - there may be a fragment or two of it lying around. The photographic accompaniments never got off the ground - to Dayna, sorry I rambled about it so much one night in Guelph a few years ago!)

I thought I'd reached another turning point a few months ago, when I helped out with a movie friends were making. Discussing that project, plus the possibility one friend had of getting a play into the Toronto Fringe Fest made my mind work overtime on crazy things to write about. One that made the leap to paper started as an idea to get some friends together to shoot pictures of each other as if we were rock/pop musicians over the past few decades, a group that kept changing its style with the times. Hasn't turned out, but it did get me to thinking about writing a backstory...which then mutated into a mock history of a bumbling Canadian band from the 60s-70s.

One problem - how to avoid sounding like it's a rip-off or too closely parallels Spinal Tap.

Thought the way around this problem would be a series of stories about different groups, a history of bands nobody's ever heard of. Only one made it far before my mind wandered off to its next distraction.

Still, why waste this, as I usually do? Here are the fragments, with commentary:

Canadian Music Legends
1: Test Pattern


(Couldn't think of a decent beginning, other than members of this group may have had roots in clean-cut, white bread "folk" groups of the early 60s. But then A Mighty Wind came out. So, let's just say they appear out of the ether)

Inspired by Quebec's rock groups with themes, they originally called themselves The Six Nations, each sporting a weak excuse for a tribal costume (image of ersatz Native costumes - one person with a mohawk wig, another as a stereotypical maiden, etc.) This went down like a lead balloon. Next came The Cabbagetown Six, wearing nothing but cabbage leaves taped to their bodies. (image of six people wearing nothing but strategically placed pieces of cabbage, along with either pieces of cabbage worn like a helmet or bright green hair) This went down well with the morality squad and fans' sense of smell.

A FAN: Remember seeing them in '66 as the Cabbagetown Six. It was in a tiny hole in the wall, with hardly any air. I tell ya, it didn't take long before you wanted to throw a hunk of corned beef up on stage to cook alongside their outfits. The smell was so bad. But the music kept you coming back. Good thing they dumped the cabbage!

Deciding they wouldn't be able to stand the summer as the Cabbagetown Six, the group decided to change their image to look more like a conventional rock group. A new name was needed, which came in July 1966 after the group stayed up all night in a drunken haze watching a test pattern on TV.

(then into early songs/performances. Wanted to integrate into a story an incident I once read about the Toronto group The Mandala, where the police once accused their lead singer of getting a crowd too excited for their own good).

Singer Gord Labatt was arrested during a concert in June 1967 for "exciting the crowd" during a particularly intense performance of (insert a song title).

More in part 2...

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