I Can Hear Canada Singing is a lovely sunshine pop tune. The flip track is an ode to the newborn Justin Pierre Trudeau, who was born on December 25, 1971.
Early in September, at a Justin Trudeau election press conference in Vancouver, a middle-aged man with mop-top hair wearing a tam o' shanter took over the microphone. In a somewhat high-pitched and excited delivery, he offered Trudeau an off-the-wall, who-knew, factoid: North Vancouver Green candidate Claire Martin, the ex-TV weather expert, had decades ago appeared in the Pink Floyd video for The Wall album.
As this historic detail was absorbed by Trudeau, the phalanx of Liberal candidates behind him and the assorted journo types who began to smirk, the inquisitor segued to his real point: "But you, Mr. Trudeau, have a rich rock-and-roll tradition.
"You and your family."
The man was, of course, Nardwuar the Human Serviette. He's a Vancouver institution, now 47, known for his manic enthusiasm, beyond-deep knowledge of pop music ephemera, surreal questions, and always ending his interviews with a bizarre call and response: "Doot doola doot doo... Doot doo!"
Nardwuar, in his role as a reporter for CiTR Radio at the University of B.C., expected to be escorted out by Trudeau's handlers. Previous requests to interview the Dauphin of Canada's most famous political family had been turned down.
But Nardwuar is not easily intimidated; this is the guy who asked Mikhail Gorbachev which world statesman "has the largest pants." He pressed on, presenting forgotten musical artifacts about the Trudeau family saga, a technique he regularly uses to draw out his interview subjects, whether they're rapper Jay-Z or PM-to-be-JT.
"Every single time I do this, I'm nervous," said Nardwuar of his ambush interview style. "Not only am I trying to ask my questions, I've got all my records. And I want to be able to grab them. And I don't want people to grab me. And it's a crowded area. Yeah, it's pretty intense."
Nardwuar asked the Liberal leader if he was aware of a 1972 record called Justin Pierreby singer Dinah Christie, a 45-rpm folk-pop ode to Justin Pierre Trudeau who was born on Christmas Day, 1971. Nardwuar reached into a bag and pulled out said vinyl record, a disc that recalls our country's once intense fascination with all things Trudeau: Prime Minister Pierre Elliott, Margaret and their three kids.
"I hate to date myself because I try to talk about how old I am as often as I can," replied the Liberal leader. "But I don't have that particular song on my iPod." (This was a wittier response than rapper Snoop Dogg's reaction in one of his seven interviews with Nardwuar: "You're funnier than a motherfucker.")
What's hilarious too is the strange revival of the sunny Mamas-and-Papas-ish single "Justin Pierre" after Nardwuar's interview with Trudeau spread through social media.
The morning after Trudeau's election, Nardwuar received an email from a woman, Zoe Carter, who is the sister of Noah "40" Shebib, the Canadian record producer behind mega-star rapper Drake. The sister, Carter, has a godmother -- none other than Justin Pierre singer Dinah Christie. They'd seen Nardwuar's Trudeau interview and were fans because of a previous interview Nardwuar did with Drake. They wanted to get Christie's Justin Pierre on iTunes.
Nardwuar connected them to the Museum of Canadian Music, which is online at CitizenFreak.com. The site, which was created by Vancouver's Robert Williston, has the single "Justin Pierre" and the flipside song, "I Can Hear Canada Singing." And now, because Nardwuar brought the album to a campaign press conference, Christie's Justin Pierre is available on iTunes for 99 cents.
"For me that is the ultimate success of an interview. I do an interview and it sheds some light on a record that people forgot about," said Nardwuar. "And now the record has been released on iTunes. And that it connects back to Drake, which is incredible... This shows how small Canada is."
(Geezer readers may recall that Christie sang satirical songs on CBC TV's groundbreaking This Hour Has Seven Days in the '60s and was a regular performer on the TV series Party Game in the early '70s. Even master researcher Nardwuar was unaware of Christie's earlier media persona.)
'Go Go Trudeau'
Nardwuar's free-wheeling approach to interviewing reminds me of a freelance writer friend's take on scoring media schwag: It never hurts to ask.
And because Nardwuar asked Justin Pierre about Justin Pierre, Canadians can now thrillto these lyrics:
"Beautiful morning, beautiful child / Welcome to the land / Many more friends than you ever could guess / Are waiting to see you stand / And walk through a country young and strong / See all the power there / So many friends will sing you this song / Welcome Justin Pierre."
You begin to get why one writer for Slate.com recently call the CiTR host "one of the greatest living practitioners of the art of the interview" and "a living repository of the history and folklore of popular music." Nardwuar's ability to prod interview subjects with the curios from their past was also celebrated in a column this year in the New York Times Magazine with the writer calling the North Van man "my favourite journalist."
But back to Nardwuar versus Justin.
Nardwuar pulled out Go Go Trudeau, an LP recorded in 1968 by the Quebecois band, The Sinners. "I prefer 'go go' Harper these days," replied Trudeau. He pulled out "Song for Margaret," a 1976 song about Trudeau's mother by a musician named Mackenzie King.
"I know him best as prime minister," quipped Trudeau about the musician. Then came by "Fuddle Duddle" by Antique Fair and a P.E.T. Paperdoll Dress-up Book -- "I believe I have an app for that now," said the future prime minister.
-Doug Ward, 30 Oct 2015, TheTyee.ca