By Keith Sharp
The above title is a spin on a catchphrase from a popular David Frost English television show (That Was The Week That Was) which executed a weekly round-up of the dire straits of life in Britain during the 1960s. But as we head into 2022, the globe continues to be ravaged by a new variant of COVID-19, which even though it is supposed to be less lethal for people who have received their vaccinations and are set for a booster shot, the immediate damage was the virtual closing down of all planned Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities. The economic fallout for this decision, which came just two weeks before pre-planned New Year’s Eve Concerts and events will be staggering!
This time, last year, when we all faced similar hardships, the roll-out of vaccines and the rush to be immunized, suggested that eventually, this pandemic would subside and that by maybe late summer or early fall, things would return to normal with restaurants, bars, and concert venues could then turn the lights back on. And then came Omicron and we are suddenly back to square one.
So, 2021 will be known as the year touring came to a grinding halt with bands and artists forced to take a year off from touring with many retreating to their collective recording studios to focus their creativity on new recordings. And conveniently just before Christmas with some of these key new releases flooding the market.
Stateside, it’s the Taylor Swift repackaged `Red’, Adele’s long-awaited `30’ and even Toronto’s own Drake with `Certified Lover Boy’ which dominated sales and the fact that the majority of people were forced to stay at home has provided a boost for online music sales.
In Canada, a number of key artists came out of the woodwork with releases or scheduled releases for the new year including the likes of Bryan Adams, Blue Rodeo, The Arkells, Colin James, Tea Party and Our Lady Peace who all put their down-time to good use.
The year 2021 also held special significance for Music Express (ME) as it was in October 1976, 45 years ago that the debut issue of Alberta Music Express rolled off the North Hill News presses in Calgary Alberta as a side venture for a 21-year-old Calgary Herald sportswriter, namely me!
Roman Mitz’s excellent two-part editorial focus on the legacy of Music Express was released this October and I have created a two-part Timeline, the second part of which, will be published in the upcoming week.
To mark this momentous occasion, I solicited tributes from my musical colleagues and was overwhelmed by the response, to the point that I had to stop receiving them after we hit a count of 40. Some artists who have already submitted designed tributes and video clips include; Alex Lifeson from Rush, Bryan Adams, Lawrence Gowan from Styx, Burton Cummings, Trooper, Loverboy, Kim Mitchell, Jann Arden, Platinum Blonde, Iron Maiden, April Wine and The Box with many more still to be featured. I am both humbled and thrilled by your response.
Death-wise 2021 was relatively light compared to previous years but we did lose Rolling Stones’ drummer Charlie Watts, Gerry And The Pacemakers’ lead vocalist Gerry Marsden and ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill amongst the more notable international artists. And in Canada, Five Man Electrical Band’s lead vocalist, Les Emmerson recently lost his COVID battle.
It was also, sad that the original Trooper duo of lead vocalist Ra McGuire and guitarist Brian Smith chose the COVID lockdown to officially announce their retirement from the band after an unparalleled relationship spanning some 46 years. I just hope CARAS finally sees fit to induct them into Canada’s Music Hall of Fame. Their omission is a grave injustice that should be corrected.
Concert wise in the Toronto area, we welcomed back the re-opening of Massey Hall and the El Mocambo, the re-emergence of the Meridian Hall (formerly the Sony Centre) and the launch of a new venue, History, co-owned by Drake.
Through it all, Music Express continued to battle on and I would be remiss in not acknowledging the tireless work of magazine designer, slash IT expert Joyce Domingo, and faithful scribe Roman Mitz who has been associated with ME, ever since we move to Toronto in 1980! And who continues to contribute to Music Express on a regular basis.
So, looking ahead to 2022, we have to believe that this pandemic will subside at some point and that venues will be able to operate with confidence that they won’t be shut down again or have their attendances drastically reduced. The Rolling Stones, Genesis and even Elton John were able to complete some of their projected dates, and will no doubt finish off their itineraries in 2022 while THE big tour of 2022 (from this writer’s standpoint) will be Iron Maiden’s Legacy Of The Beast production in support of their amazing `Senjutsu’ album. Word is that this production is their best ever!
In the meantime, here’s to hoping that everyone made the best of this year’s festivities! Get your vaccination shots and see you in the New Year! 2022 cannot possibly be as bad as 2021 or can it? We can only hope!