Charity Shop Classics

Earlier this month I was a guest presenter for an episode of Charity Shop Classics, a radio show on Manchester station (allFM). The show is hosted by a group of music lovers who trawl the music sections of charity shops (what we would call “second-hand stores” or “thrift stores” in North America) and then play selections from their haul every week. It’s a very entertaining show, and I was thrilled to get to join in the fun. You can listen to the episode here.

Tom Harrison

This is a blog post that I didn’t think I’d be writing.

On December 27, my friend Tom Harrison passed away at the age of 70. We were friends for more than 40 years – a number which astounded me when I calculated it. We met in the late 1970s when he was the music writer for The Province newspaper and I was the music writer for The Vancouver Sun, but it honestly doesn’t feel like that long ago.

I knew who Tom was long before I actually met him. Any music lover in Vancouver in the 1970s knew who Tom was, from his writing in the Georgia Straight weekly paper and also from the pioneering music video show Soundproof that he co-hosted on cable TV. But a lot of people didn’t know that Continue reading

Interviews about MIXTAPE

Since my new book MIXTAPE was released, I’ve done several interviews about it, which I’d like to share.

Eric Senich and I talked about the book for his podcast Booked On Rock.

John Ackermann at CityNews1130 radio in Vancouver interviewed me about MIXTAPE for his weekly BookShelf segment. The video of the interview is here, and the website story is here.

Ben O’Hara-Byrne did a long interview with me on his nightly national radio show A Little More Conversation.  The audio of the interview is on the show’s website, in the playlist on the lower part of the page. The segment is titled “ALMC hits rewind” and the interview starts about 14 minutes in.

It’s a crowded market out there for music-related books. I’m very grateful to all these interviewers for giving MIXTAPE some extra attention.

Happy Holidays!

As 2022 winds down, I’ll be taking a few weeks away from posting on Writing On Music. It’s been a busy year but a very productive one.

Thanks so much to everyone who’s bought my new book MIXTAPE, and if you haven’t bought it yet, what are you waiting for? Get yourself over to this page, which has links to retailers as well as lots of information about the book.

I learned this year that there are more than a dozen different wintertime holidays celebrated around the world.  Whatever and wherever you celebrate, have a wonderful time, and be sure to rest up and rejuvenate yourself as well.

See you in 2023!

Cry Cry Cry: ’96 Tears’

[originally appeared in Shindig! issue #127]

Saginaw, Michigan, is an industrial city about two hours northwest of Detroit. In the mid-20th century, migrant Mexican-American farm labourers in the region, seeking greater economic security and stability, settled in Saginaw to work at its auto manufacturing plants. Mexican-American kids in Saginaw in the late 1950s and early 1960s grew up with the Mexican music that their parents loved and performed – mostly the Tejano style, with its rollicking accordion and guitars – but they also listened to Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and other pioneering American rock and rollers. Those diverse influences fueled ? and the Mysterians’ ‘96 Tears’ – which, since its 1966 release, has gone on to be recorded by more than 50 other artists, and has become a modern-day classic.

Speaking from his home in Saginaw, Mysterians guitarist Bobby Balderrama tells Shindig! that the group  – which took its name from a Japanese sci-fi movie they saw on TV –  started as an instrumental combo, “playing the Ventures, Duane Eddy, all the guitar stuff.” He and fellow guitarist Larry Borjes, along with drummer Robert Martinez, honed their craft in his parents’ garage. “It was a two-car garage, so my dad parked the car on one side, and we practiced on the other side. We had our equipment set up there all the time.” However, when they played gigs, Continue reading

“Her Country”: An Interview with Author Marissa Moss

Women have always been an integral part of country music, starting with pioneers such as the Carter Family and Patsy Montana. Yet country music has also marginalized women musicians – even more so in the last decade. In 2015, a country radio consultant publicly stated that songs by women were “not the lettuce in our salad…[they are] the tomatoes“.  In 2019, women artists represented only 10 percent of the music played on US country radio stations that year.

Music journalist Marissa Moss,  who’s based in Nashville, saw women in country music making great music at the same time that the industry was focusing on “bro country“, and saw women trying to be successful their own way in an industry that wanted them to conform to very narrow stereotypes. Her new book Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be tells the stories of three female country musicians – Maren Morris, Mickey Guyton, and Kasey Musgraves. Through unpacking their experiences, it touches on racism, sexism, corporatization, politics, and oppression, and how all of those shape  performers’ careers and the music we listen to. The book is ultimately hopeful, but it also pulls no punches in describing how badly the country music industry can treat women.

I found Her Country to be an extremely thought-provoking and rewarding read, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Marissa about it.

Fiona McQuarrie (FM): What motivated you to write the book?

Marissa Moss (MM): I had been covering this beat in Nashville, at the time I started writing the book, for about eight years, and it just felt Continue reading