It was a night to celebrate the familiar, the semi-famous, the unknown and the almost forgotten. Appearing by turns glamorous and goofy, Canada’s top pop musicians paraded onto Toronto’s O’Keefe Centre stage to accept their Juno Awards. Telecast live on the CBC network on Nov. 2, the Canadian music industry’s annual award show saw the return of many former winners—along with last year’s host, Toronto native Howie Mandel, best known as Dr. Wayne Fiscus on TV’S St. Elsewhere. Stand-up comedy’s answer to heavy metal, the louder-than-life Mandel kept the show moving—his antics included a striptease ending in a demonstration of synchronized swimming in a child’s wading pool. Another highlight was popular Montreal-born singer Gino Vannelli’s polished rendition of his hit Wild Horses—his debut on national TV.
But overall, the Junos lacked the excitement and glamor of previous shows. Vancouver rock star Bryan Adams, currently on a European tour, was not there to pick up his two Junos—top male vocalist and the newly created people’s choice award for Canadian entertainer of the year. And the only nonCanadian celebrity onstage was British pop vixen Samantha Fox—a banal presence after appearances by Tina Turner and Bob Dylan in the past two years.
After the show, as the music industry luminaries and their hangers-on tucked into a dinner of roast Cornish hen and wild rice, Fox met Montreal’s Luba, and the two singers joked about their resemblance. Indeed, in their respective red and purple suede outfits, Fox and Luba formed a matched pair of hefty blondes. Named top female vocalist for the third consecutive year,
Luba shrugged off her achievement with exaggerated modesty. “I’m no rock diva,” she said.
“There are a lot of people out there millions of times better than I am.”
Meanwhile, Alberta’s K. D. Lang graciously usurped Anne Murray’s mantle as Canada’s country queen. Celebrating her 26th birthday, the stylish eccentric broke Murray’s six-year hold on the Juno for best female country singer. Lang wore a powder-blue jacket embroidered with rhinestone lapels and chartreuse oak leaves. The sylvan motif resurfaced later when she discussed her recent Nashville recording session with American troubador Roy Orbison. “He
is a man who is not unlike a tree,” she said. “A legend who is strong and completely egoless.”
However, as the Junos honored one of Canadian rock’s sturdiest legends, the sound of shattering egos almost drowned out the acclaim. Moments after the ex-members of the Guess Who—Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, Jim Kale and Gary Petersonstrolled onstage to pick up their Hall of Fame award, a TV commercial cut in before they could even say “Thank you.” Backstage, Cummings angrily told the media: “It was pretty cheesy with a capital C. It stinks.” Said a sheepish Peter Steinmetz, president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences: “It was just an error—everybody screws up.” And two days later the CBC offered to right the wrong by making and airing a halfhour TV documentary about the former group from Winnipeg.
One lesson learned is that a Juno can be worth its weight in irony. Ian Tyson, 54, was named top male country singer almost two decades after his career’s peak. And Cape Breton singer Rita MacNeil, 44, a 17-year music business veteran, was proclaimed “most promising female vocalist.”
Although the Junos honor Canadian talent, they serve a pop music industry that thrives on American recognition. Several Juno winners who have scored international success—including softspoken producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Peter Gabriel) and pugnacious rock manager Bruce Allen (Bryan Adams, Loverboy)—criticized government measures that protect the Canadian music industry. Lanois, looking coolly sinister under a black bowler, said that radio’s 30-percent Canadian-content quota limits musicians’ horizons. “If we didn’t have it,” said Lanois, “people would be forced to broaden their scope.” But Canada’s sheltered airwaves have nurtured some durable talents, including Kim Mitchell, whose Shakin ’ Like a Human Being was voted album of the year. “America’s not the be-all and end-all,” said Mitchell. “Look what I got going here.” Hailing the awards night as his industry’s “annual convention,” Mitchell put the Junos into perspective—as a pop party where Canadian musicians can step out—and step up.
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