You'd think after book launch events across the country, dozens of interviews, several speeches, and articles and appearances in broadcast and print numbering in the hundreds, I'd be getting pretty used to talking in public about The Top 100 Canadian Singles. However, there was something different about Friday night's event in Fredericton. It is, after all, my hometown. For some reason I was more nervous about this book launch than any of the others. I guess it was because I knew almost everyone there, or at least figured I should, and it was up to me to entertain my friends and family. Perhaps I knew if I didn't keep them satisfied on a Friday night, I'd be forever thinking about that each time I saw them. Whatever the reason, I had butterflies going in.
The book launch was held at Gallery Connexion, which is the city's artist-operated gallery. It's a fine new location, with a performance space included in the design, and there I was, performing for the folks. A vicious rain and windstorm kept lots of people home, some of whom lost power through the day. But it was still a fine turnout, 50-ish someone said, but I was too nervous to notice. It just seemed crowded, with everyone staring at me.
Luckily, I had someone to help, and to equally entertain. Colleen Kitts was the MC/Inquisitor for the event. The well-known N.B. broadcaster and writer brings her own considerable charm and wit to each event, and had me behind the eight ball from the start. She knows me better than anyone else in the world, and as she happily pointed out, is one of the few who can claim to have beaten me at a music trivia question. In truth, there are many others, but they are generally from the music and history worlds, and Colleen did it on sheer love of a song. She has never let me forget it, and took the opportunity to lord it over me to the crowd. To a person, they enjoyed this immensely. But I took it in good stride, I feel. After that, it was a half-hour barrage of questions, insightful comments, and a couple more cheap shots, from me. Everyone said they loved it, and a couple of veteran book event-goers called it the best book launch they'd ever been to. We try to please, here at the Top 100 Canadian Singles. I saved up a couple of good pieces of gossip about famous Canadian pop stars for the occasion.
Hats off to the Gallery staff, notably Maggie Estey and Meredith Snider, and all the Goose Lane Editions people, who suffered through the horrible 45 second walk from the office to the gallery. Well, it was raining. This seems a good time to pay written tribute to Kent Fackenthall, who did get a big shout-out from me at the event, but hopefully some others will read this as well. Kent is the designer of both The Top 100 Canadian Albums and The Top 100 Canadian Singles. His terrific layout and graphics make these special books. I can take no credit for the beauty of these books, and Kent deserves so much of it. While the list and the debate grabs some interest, what really sells the books is the incredible look of them. They are truly visual feasts, and that's the main reason they stay in permanant places on people's coffee tables. Another round of applause for Kent.
Also in the house was Barry Norris, who has been the editor on both books. He knows his music and history, which is a plus right there, but even better, he knows how to keep the grammar and language perfect, while retaining this writer's voice. There is nothing a writer wants more, I believe, than to still recognize his own words on the page, after the editing suggestions. Barry has made the process, which is supposed to be difficult, into one of the most pleasurable jobs in the creation of the books.
And more kudos to everyone at Goose Lane, who once again have succeeded in presenting a top quality package to music fans across Canada, a hard-cover coffee table exploration of Canadian popular music, treated with utmost respect as an equal partner in Canadian art, something no other publisher has done in this country.
Now, onward to Halifax, Friday Oct. 22, 5 PM at the Carleton. Hope to see many of you there.