“This Beat Goes On”

The second-half of Nicholas Jennings’ CBC rock-doc This Beat Goes On (about 1970s’ Canadian rock music) was not very good at all.

The only way punk, post-punk, and new wave music make any sense historically OR stylistically is by comparison to the progressive rock, arena rock, heavy metal, and so on that preceded them. This second episode did not follow properly at all from the first one (which reasonably covered the Guess Who, BTO, Gordon Lightfoot, Harmonium, and many others) and instead dove right off the top into DOA, the Viletones, Teenage Head, etc., then covered Top 40 soft pop-rock, and then finally touched on Rush, Max Webster, etc. in the last couple of minutes. I’m not saying that hard/prog needed more airtime, but the filmmakers might as well have covered DOA in the show’s first episode and the Guess Who in a later episode, for all the sense this episode made.

I like the way they’re presenting lots of groups that people under thirty or so probably have never heard (or seen). However, the already-well-known entities (even Bruce Cockburn, but also Rush and way too many others) are just getting their best-known songs covered (any of which you can hear on classic rock radio any day of the week), rather than their much more interesting work, which would have presented them in a much better light in the context BOTH of obvious Top 40 pop songs AND of punk/post-punk/new-wave music.

They haven’t really done any better with this than the low-end fillers they usually have on VH1 and MuchMore(of-the-same)Music, and I find it hard to believe that they spent three years on it. Jennings is a light-weight: what Canadian music needs is a Malcolm Gladwell to distil what has been written about Canadian music by academics—but for a mass audience.