20th Century Rebels

Those of us who collect vinyl do it for so many reasons.  Some are unique, and some we all share.  I collect in part for the nostalgia.  I’ll be flipping through a stack at a record show or in my local store and be hit with a wave of memories when I find certain albums.  It may be something that I haven’t recalled in years. 

When I first heard the album. 

When I first saw the band live and then had to have their latest LP. 

Who I was with when I heard it, or who told me that this was a album I had to listen to.

Then there is the discovery part of collecting.  There are countless lists of “must-have” albums.  I go through these lists to discover music that I missed years ago. Some is great and some I don’t really regret never having in my collection.

Another wonderful discovery experience is when someone gives you an album that they love and want you to enjoy.  Then the interview starts.  What is their story about that album?

I had coffee with my best friend from high school when he was visiting Ottawa to take in a Neko Case concert.  We saw Murray McLaughlan here a few years ago and my wife and I traveled to Toronto to see Bryan Ferry with he and his wife.  Clearly he has a broad musical appreciation. 

When we met for coffee he slid the 12 x 12 half inch thick sealed package across the table to me.  “A piece of the Toronto music scene from the eighties”.  I didn’t open it until I got home, and then I extracted a very good quality copy of 20th Century Rebels Rebelution.  New music to me – love that. 

Had to ask why this album.

“Back in the ‘80’s, I got into UB40’s first three or four reggae albums. Also saw The Parachute Club, Messenjah and The Sattalites a lot at the Bamboo Club on Queen. I met a guy named Peanut there once who turned out to be Devon Martin. He said he was in a band, The Rebels, he called them. In fact, they were the 20th. Century Rebels. He invited me to watch them and I got hooked. Went to see them numerous times around the greater GTA. Was actually at their record release party; their only record! After the band split up, Peanut put out the song Mr. Metro, about police brutality, which got a lot of play on Much Music.  He accepted an invitation from me and came to [the high school where I was teaching] to do a lecture to students about what it meant to be black in Toronto. I lost track of him along the way but we had some good times.”

There’s a lot of eighties Toronto music memories in that statement.

The Parachute Club is probably the biggest name mentioned.  I’m pleased that I’ve got a copy of The Parachute Club in my collection. This first album of their four studio albums opens with iconic Juno Song of the Year – Rise Up.  For anyone who remembers the early years of Toronto’s Queen Street West neighbourhood, the Rise Up video will flood you with memories as you ride with the band on a flat bed along Queen Street West to a performance in front of Toronto’s Roy Thompson Hall.  That’s the Canadian Version . Back in 1983, Drake hadn’t put The Six on the musical map, so the US version is a stage performance with some theatrics – no Canadian content to speak of.

I don’t imagine Lorraine Segato thought she would be performing Rise Up inside Roy Thompson Hall some 28 years later in memory of Jack Layton.  During his political career, Layton was a great supporter of the LGBT2 community and adopted Rise Up as his anthem.  Just another example of the interweaving of music, culture and politics in Toronto.

It was at The Bamboo Club that The Parachute Club launched their first album.
There’s a great piece on The Bamboo Club and it’s place in Toronto’s Reggae/funk scene.  This piece mentions 20th Century Rebels as one of the reggae bands that played there.

Rebelution contains five tracks : 

Mystical Traveler 

Unemployed Expert 

FBI  

Murder 

If you don’t have the vinyl LP, your only other option to hear these tunes is YouTube.  It was never released on CD and I couldn’t find it on any steaming service.

Devon “Peanut” Martin wrote the lyrics for all of these tracks.  Devon later became known as Mr. Metro following the release of  the Juno award winning rap single Metro.  Award winning but it also rather inflamed management at the Metro Toronto Police Service as a number of officers were clearly visible in the video.  This was unfortunate, as the song was intended as an indictment of police racism in general throughout North America.  That said, the Toronto Police force was certainly notable in their racist treatment of black men and they knew Mr. Metro was pointing fingers in their direction.  Rather than take this as a challenge to correct these issues, or at the very least, take a hard look at the force, Toronto Police Service chose to threaten to arrest Devon Martin based on alleged accusations of defamation.  Martin was forced to blackout portions of the video that were believed to identify Toronto officers.  

In spite of  the police reaction, or perhaps because of it, Mr. Metro went on to win a 1990 Much Music Video Award. 

So here you see in real time the power of sharing a vinyl record album.  It’s more than just nostalgia, its history, its politics and its an extension of a wonderful friendship. 

Thanks Paul.