Daily CanCon: I Mother Earth “Used to Be Alright” was my TV debut

In honour of my new play, BIG IN GERMANY, which is all about Canadian rock music and the 1990s, I’m going to share a CanCon music video everyday. BIG IN GERMANY plays at Buddies in Bad Times April 9-21. Get tickets here.

In today’s Daily Cancon, if you watch really closely you’ll see 12-year-old me:


I’ve already written about my early obsession with I Mother Earth. In the summer of 1996, when “Another Sunday” (still my favourite IME song) was doing its run up the charts, I Mother Earth ran a poll on their web site asking which of two options they should release as their next video. I voted for “Raspberry” — a song about a man who falls in love with fruit and worries that he’s “not like everyone.” Raspberry didn’t win, but ended up being the fourth single.

“Used to Be Alright” was announced as the next video instead, and soon the band announced that they’d be shooting concert scenes for the video at the Opera House in Toronto. Anyone who wanted to be in just had to show up on shoot day.

“Wait,” my brain said. “I get to meet I Mother Earth and be on television? For free?!

IMEI roped in my buddy Ben to go down to the video shoot one cold Sunday in November. We arrived early because we figured that’d get us the most advantageous spots in the shoot. We froze our asses off waiting several hours for them to let us in as the line of IME fans stretched down the alley.

We were finally invited in. At this point, you’d probably expect me to say that the experience did not live up to expectations. That music video shoots are actually pretty boring, and that you want to shoot yourself in the face after the 30th consecutive time you’ve heard the song played. But you would be wrong. IT WAS AWESOME.

Even though the music was canned, this was pretty much my first rock concert. It was my first mosh pit. And during the second take, Ben boosted me up on to crowd surf. IT WAS AWESOME. I didn’t want it to stop. And then I noticed the crowd was pushing me toward the stage. I was tossed right up on the stage between lead singer Edwin and guitarist Jag Tanna. And then I froze. I looked around, trying to find the stage exit, or a way to slip down into the crowd. I’d seen people stage dive before, but it really did not look like the people below would catch me. After what felt like ten minutes, a roadie finally came to insist I jump of the stage (and out of the shot). I swallowed, closed my eyes, leapt, and was caught.

Ten full runs of “Used To Be Alright” later, when Jag Tanna asked the crowd if we hated the song yet, Ben shouted back “It used to be alright” and got a laugh from the crowd. But if anything, the experience made me like the song I’d previously found unremarkable a whole lot more. Ben left after a couple of hours, but I stayed until well past my curfew. I was rewarded with the band playing four or five songs live while the crew took a break. Then they took autographs. I hadn’t brought anything for them to write on, so I used the TTC transfer I’d picked up on the Faywood Bus that morning. It’s still in a box in my parents’ house somewhere.

I watched MuchMusic constantly for weeks after the shoot, hoping to be the first to catch the video when it debuted. I still remember how excited I was when one day after school, I was “doing homework” in front of Much and the video came up — and then running to write about it on the guestbook on IME’s web site.

Looking back, it probably didn’t bode well for IME that they’d released a song on their second album that lyricist Chris Tanna described as being about imagining what it would be like after the band broke up and they went their separate ways. Lead singer Edwin left the band a year and a half later, and the rest of the band split up in 2003. But just like the song suggests, the Edwin-less version of the band reunited last year and has been touring Ontario. (If you’re reading this, IME, a Toronto show please?)

Thematic tie-in to Big In Germany: Good friends collaborating artistically, falling out, breaking up, pining for the good old days, and coming back (stronger?). Relive those moments in 90 minutes of hilarity starting next week at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. And of course, the boys of Big In Germany are big I Mother Earth fans. Get tickets here.


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