Twice a week I work swing shift, and that means that I’m driving home at 11pm. I actually enjoy these 40 minute commutes, because on those days, my local NPR station, KUOW, plays a CBC show called Q with Tom Power. I never know what to expect from this show, because it focuses on pop culture, and that’s a subject that would never make me win Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit. I think this comes from a combination of being 58 and being autistic. I will never be accused of having my finger on the cultural pulse.
Having said that, I have to admit that Tom Power is the best interviewer that I’ve ever heard. He never fails to ask unique and intriguing questions that no other interviewer would even contemplate. Even if I’m not particularly interested in the artist, writer, actor or musician that he’s speaking to, I am always charmed by Power’s avenue of inquiry. I love the way his mind works.
It’s also quite obvious that Power always does his homework prior to interviewing someone. (There’s nothing more irritating than listening to lazy interviewer speak to an author, for example, when it’s blatantly obvious that he hasn’t even bothered to read the book. Power will never be accused of that.) He is so professional and confident in his research that he never seems rattled if the interview ends up heading in a fascinating yet unexpected direction. I get the impression that he doesn’t operate from a preplanned list of questions. He just thoroughly schools himself, and then allows his subjects to take him wherever they want to go. His research means he can hang with them regardless.
Quite often he’ll allow us to eavesdrop on what feels like intimate, personal chats with people so famous that even I know who they are. Michael J. Fox. Neil Young. Hugh Jackman. Bono. Rosie Perez. Bruce Springsteen. Laura Dern. Bonnie Raitt. Neil Gaiman. Dionne Warwick. Margaret Atwood. Ralph Macchio.
Since Power is based in Toronto and his show comes from CBC, many of his subjects are Canadian. Because of this, he sometimes introduces me to very talented people who are quite popular in Canada, but not as well known in America. One such artist is Buffy Sainte-Marie. I love her music, and have heard a few of her songs, but I wasn’t familiar with her extensive body of work. Now I’m a huge fan. I love being introduced to a whole new (to me) playlist. A fun fact about her is that she helped Joni Mitchell break into stardom back in the day.
But when I tuned into Q the other night, I felt as though I had accidentally stuck my head into a different universe entirely. They say that fish don’t realize they’re in water until the first time they jump out of it. That was the kind of disconcerting sensation I was having.
Tom Power was interviewing Matty Healy, a member of an English pop rock band called The 1975. You can listen to the interview here. (Americans, don’t even bother trying to access the interviews and videos from the CBC website. Apparently only Canadians are allowed access. But this site allows you to at least hear the audio of hundreds of his interviews, and is well worth exploring.)
The 1975 have done 1,030 concerts worldwide in the last 20 years. Power called them one of the biggest rock bands in the world today, and declared them a cultural touchstone. Healy talked about performing in front of 90,000 people. I wasn’t able to confirm that, but I do know (now) that they’ve had concerts in venues that seat at least 20,000 people. This band has won a lot of awards, including British Album of the Year in 2019, and they have been nominated yet again for 2023.
I must be waaaay out of touch with this touchstone, because until I heard this interview, I had never heard of The 1975 in my entire life. You’d think they were the modern-day Beatles or something. (They are, after all, a group of 4 chart-topping Brits.) But this is news to me. Could my head really be buried that deeply in the sand?
Their most successful single, Chocolate, sold 1.5 million chart units (which includes a combination of streaming and downloads). You can listen to their top three singles here. They’re catchy. I can see why they’re popular. They’ve got a good beat and you can dance to them, as the saying goes. But the music is a little too electronic for my taste, and the lyrics are all but impossible for me to discern without a cheat sheet that allows me to read along.
Wow, but I’m feeling old. In fairness, I am about 40 years older than the typical fans of The 1975. But from reading the gushing comments about them on various forums, they also resonate with people my age. So maybe it’s less about my age and more about my general tendency toward cultural cluelessness.
Either way, it must be a strange feeling to be that famous and then run into someone like me who doesn’t know or care about your notoriety. I can attest to the fact that it’s s a very strange feeling to learn for the first time about a band that at least 1.5 million people have known about for years. It makes me wonder (yet again) what else I’m missing.
I may not exactly be your best resource for pop culture, but I can and did write a heck of a book. Check it out! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5
5 thoughts on “Far from the Cutting Edge”
I listen to all kinds of music in an effort to keep up with current culture, but only retain the names of bands that make an impression or have been forced onto my consciousness by excessive media coverage. I may have run across this band, but after listening to them, right now, I can see why I’m as clueless as you to their existence. They don’t seem to stand out as having anything new to add to all the previous pop music they’re imitating. Why would either of us make room in our limited memory cells for them? I do like this video though for it’s on screen comments that start around 1:36 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSnAllHtG70 Then, again, it could be that we’ve both jumped into a dimensional version of earth where they do exist but didn’t in our previous dimension. (Dang! Just checked and the despicable Cheeto still exists in this version.)😊
Thanks for the link! And I love it that they don’t take themselves too seriously. The comments that flash on the screen are a bit harsh. Yeah, it’s not the type of music I would go out of my way to listen to, and I’m not going to rush out and buy concert tickets, but that one “The Sound” isn’t half bad for its genre. It’s just weird knowing they’re out there and I never heard a word about them all this time. I’m feeling out of touch.
I fear that Cheeto is a bad dream in every single dimension.
Thanks for the links for Tom, Buffy and Cree Literacy Network. I’ve known about Buffy’s music and activism since she first appeared, but that’s because I lived across the river from Canada and watched as much of their programming as I did the U.S.’s. Saved this from last Indigenous People’s Day to remember her wise words… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-ItU1AYLjA
my paternal grandmother lived these truths.
She’s so amazing! Here are all the interviews with her on Tom Power’s youtube channel. https://www.youtube.com/@QwithTomPower/search?query=Buffy