I believe we are all genetically predisposed to love music. While in the womb, floating peacefully in amniotic fluid, we listen to the ebb and flow of our mother’s body. Her heartbeat, coupled with the sound of fluids moving through blood vessels and the umbilical cord (taking food to us and removing waste), is our first exposure to music – our lifeblood. In fact, the amniotic fluid that surrounds a foetus conducts sound better than air, making us truly receptive to any type of sound. Essentially, we were born within a sound system. This is why we find the sound of waves and running water so relaxing. It brings back memories of floating in a different kind of sea – the inner sanctum from which we sprang. They say that pregnant women who play Mozart will have healthy babies. I can see the point. Can you imagine a child being born who has been exposed to nothing but the sound of a jackhammer? Is it any wonder that playing music can increase the yield of certain crops? Music helps us to grow and evolve – from the womb until adulthood. It is no surprise that we cannot live without it.
Songs can carry so many feelings and memories along with them. One may remind you of your first love, while another reminds you of its tearful demise. Just hearing a certain song can hurtle you back to a specific time and place. Thoughts and emotions spring forth. You relive it all over again. By way of example, for years I couldn’t listen to Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus”. This is because I bought the cassette and, while listening to it on a Walkman in the car, I came down with a terrible flu (no fault of Falco’s – I think). I was nauseous beyond belief and missed a week of school. As a result, for years I associated “Rock Me Amadeus” with headache, fever, dizziness, upset stomach and explosive projectile vomit. I would race out of the room when it was played. I understand that others felt the same.
We all feel something when it comes to music – that’s a given. However, have you ever been haunted by a song? You find yourself humming it. You struggle to recall the lyrics. Do you find yourself mumbling half-remembered words in public places? You turn to friends and family for support. Is there anything worst than trying to describe it to them? Humming, mumbling, gesturing wildly in a futile attempt at understanding. They look at you like you’re a mad person. In a fit of desperation, did you search in vain for evidence that the song even existed? Worst of all – you don’t even know its name!
For years, I have had a certain song stuck in my head. It was the theme of an alternative video show called “City Limits” (or so I thought it was), broadcast on Much Music (the Canadian equivalent of MTV). It had a distinctive bass line; a soaring, distorted guitar, reminiscent of Bowie’s “Heroes” and “When I’m With You” by Sparks. The only lyrics I could recall were “Collage, Collage, Collage, Collage”. I looked for evidence of it everywhere. Friends couldn’t recall it. Normally we expect Google to solve all our problems and deliver the goods, but no such luck. I couldn’t find a trace of it, no matter what combination of search terms I entered. I began to think my memory was failing me. Did it even exist? Yet, the insistent bass throb, whooshing guitar and driving percussion stayed with me along with the sole lyric I could recall – “Collage” repeated again and again. The song was destined to trouble me for the rest of my natural life. However, quite often we find what we’re looking for when we are not looking. In this manner, the song finally revealed itself to me.
I had a craving to hear “Reunion”, by a Toronto-based independent band called Breeding Ground. I found it on YouTube. Apparently, they weren’t nearly big enough to feature on Spotify. Like many great Canadian bands of the 80’s, they suffered from poor management and negligible promotion outside of their immediate region. I recommend following the link if – like me – you like catchy, danceable, indie / new wave music. If this article manages to accomplish just one thing then let it be introducing you to some new music!
It was great hearing “Reunion” again, a song title rich with meaning. It brought back memories of clubbing in Toronto in the late 80’s, in nightclubs like “Nuts and Bolts”; many alternative clubs played the song regularly. However, the downside of using YouTube is that once the song finishes it immediately starts playing the next thing in the queue – usually something I don’t care for. I was really getting into “Reunion” and, as I busied myself around my flat, I heard it slowly fading. I became anxious. Should I drop everything, sprint into my living room, seize my laptop and stop it before some completely unrelated nonsense started playing? Not this time. I was busy tidying my bedroom and decided to risk it. “Reunion” faded to silence and I awaited my fate, continuing to sort my sock drawer. Suddenly, a throbbing baseline filled my flat. Then a whooshing guitar. Followed by driving percussion. Then the lyrics – THE LYRICS! I KNEW THAT SONG! I found it at last – or it found ME! I raced into my living room as the anthemic chorus “Collage, Collage, Collage, Collage, Collage” filled the air. Finally, after years of searching, I had found it – totally by accident!
There before me, flashing across my laptop, was the video for the song that had haunted me for so long. I realized that not only was it the theme song for “City Limits” but much of its video was used in the show’s introduction. The song was called “Collage” by a Toronto post-punk/new wave band called Vital Sines. I was surprised that the song was considered to be a “hit” and was “listed as one of the most influential Canadian alternative rock songs”. So why did it take me YEARS to finally track it down? If anything, this demonstrates just how poorly Canadian alternative talent was promoted in the 80s. Now I leave it to you to discover the song for yourself.
In a way, I’m sad that the search is over. I think in this day and age, where so much information is available so readily, it’s difficult to maintain a sense of mystery about anything – let alone music, which has become a disposable digital commodity. I’m thankful for those rare opportunities when I’m full of curiosity and longing. Basically, I’m a searcher. It’s part of who I am. I’ve consumed a lot of interesting culture throughout my life. It has been very important to me. It defines me. Many of my most vivid memories are tied to it, for better or worst. Luckily, with such a rich foundation to set sail from, there is still room for more adventure – more for me to seek out. While my search for “Collage” has come to an end, I sense another search is about to begin. Searching is part of being human. So is music.
get johnny dovercourt’s “Any night of the week: a DIY history of toronto music 1957-2001” and youll find Vital Sines and Breeding Ground mentioned a bunch – i just found them because i was following up on all the bands mentioned. it’s a heady read and i was part of the scene somewhat back then, amazing to read what came before and get the details of what i didnt know, and other scenes that were going on around me. Amazing book. chbooks.com
Thanks for the tip! I listened to a lot of those bands back in the day. While not really a part of the scene, I do recall hanging out at Nuts and Bolts, RPM and The Twilight Zone, so I know many of those bands.