I spent my first two university summers working a great government job that I believe I scored through some school program. I don’t quite recall how I got the gig but it was full-time and it paid well (I believe it was close to $10/hour, which at the time was unprecedented in my working history). Moreover, it was a sit-down desk job (the only one I can remember having) working for the National Library and Archives.
I served as the assistant to the head music librarian (a lady with the curious name of Miss Husband who I swear was the living embodiment of Diane Chambers from Cheers) and my job was to help the National Library acquire Canadian-content sound recordings.
Get this: by law, a copy of every sound recording made in of by or about Canada has to be sent free of charge to the National Library for their archives. Of course the major labels know this and dutifully send one of absolutely everything they release to the archives, but smaller, independent musicians do not know about this law, and that’s where I came in.
Believe it or not, I spent my days doing one of three things: 1) reading music magazines and newspaper articles (sent to us by a clipping service) front-to-back in search of any hint of a CanCon recording, 2) when I found any mention of a Cancon sound recording I would search our database (I honestly can’t remember if we searched card files or computers but I think it was card files. One thing’s for sure, nobody had a computer on their desk) to see if we already had a copy in the archives, and if we didn’t 3) I would attempt to acquire it.
#3 was the best part (okay, reading Rolling Stone and Spin magazine and making $10 an hour to do it was pretty sweet too). I had several methods to go through. I’d scan the article or ad or whatever I had found in the press for an address or a name that I could look up in the phone book (email was not yet a thing, but we had access to every phone book in the country) and then I’d do my best to get in touch. Calling people was the best. Imagine you’re in, oh I don’t know, Red Deer, Alberta and you have a little bar band. You rent a 4-track and record a cassette, get 200 copies made that you sell at gigs and all of a sudden someone is calling you from the National Library Music Acquisitions Division in Ottawa (Hull, Quebec actually) and they are requesting a copy of your cassette for Canada’s permanent musical collection. Well, this would probably be the most exciting thing that happened to you all week. Heck, for many I’m sure my call was a career highlight.
Anyways, it was a fun job and it helped get me through two gig-heavy summers of high rent in the capital city.
One day I ended up calling a guy named Greg Godovitz so the library could get a copy of his most recent album, which I believe was a greatest hits collection, maybe titled 12 Gauge Goddo? Perhaps you haven’t heard of Goddo much less expected him to have a greatest hits package, but I had. Though I had never heard a note; my only exposure to Goddo was seeing gig posters all over Toronto when I was fourteen years old. Anyway, somehow, Greg and I spent at least ten or fifteen minutes gabbing away on the phone (this was probably during an extended PSAC strike where I was the only living soul on our entire floor for a few weeks).
Greg seemed like a swell guy and when he sent in a copy of his record he included an extra copy with a note saying it was for me. This was definitely during the strike, because I took it home and that was waaaayyyy against the rules. People actually included extra copies of their cassette or cd for me all the time but I wasn’t allowed to have them. Anyway, I took it home and I really liked the tape, especially a song called Keep it Under My Hat.
Fast forward to the final day of the 2014 Ottawa Bluesfest: Sunday, July 13th. As per usual my day was almost wholly taken up with corralling my young musical charges for their Be In The Band Bluesfest showcase mini-sets over on the Black Sheep Stage, followed by my own performance on the same stage as part of the Teacher’s Showcase Band. But in between the cat-herding and the guitar playing I snuck over to the River Stage and caught almost the entire set of…you guessed it: Katherine Husband and the Library Archivers!
Just kidding, it was Goddo. And he was great, and he played Keep it Under My Hat and several others that I recognized from that long-lost tape, and it was fun. The crowd was a sparse collection of deep insiders, each one of us giving the rest a “Oh, you know Goddo too?” look and wishing we we had the guts to all high-five each other in geeky Cancon solidarity.
Incidentally, it is with great pride that I have sent copies of every commercially available sound recording I have been a part of to the National Library Archives, unsolicited. So it is that my music is stored in Canada’s humidity-controlled National Music Collection alongside the music of Neil Young, Rush, Joni Mitchell, Anne Murray, The Band, and Goddo.
(But not Bryan Adams. Through a bizarre late ’80’s legal kerfuffle Bryan Adams is not considered Cancon. I can’t explain it, you’ll have to look it up. It’s true though.)