Friday, August 08, 2008


Today the Olympics kick off in Beijing at 8:08:08pm on 08/08/08. You can bet it's Chinese wedding day central as well since 8's are lucky in Chinese culture-- the more the better. I myself am flying back to Edmonton today to attend a family wedding, not so coincidentally missing the wedding of a friend too. I imagine lots of Chinese will also be buying lottery tickets today, though they just missed the Wednesday 6/49 jackpot of $45 million dollars, the 2nd largest jackpot in Canadian lottery history to be split by the staff of a car dealership in Ontario and an as yet unclaimed winner in Québec. So what's the deal with eights? In Cantonese, the word for eight sounds similar to the word for "prosperity" or "fortune". And we're a superstitious bunch who'll favour addresses, phone numbers, license plates, or whatever with as many 8's as possible. It'll be another 80 years before we get a date this awesome.

On the flipside, 4 is a very unlucky number since it sounds like word for "death". Now think about how there's no 13th floor in most high-rises, right? Well when I was in Hong Kong, the elevator for the 50+ story apartment we were staying in was "missing" floors 4, 14, 24, 34, 44, not to mention the 7th floor (also unlucky). And that's somewhat conservative because some buildings outright jump from the 39th floor to the 50th, skipping all the 40's.

Two songs that have permanent Olympic associations for me are Annie Lennox's Walking on Broken Glass and Paul Simon's You Can Call Me Al. Whenever I hear either of them I'm instantly transported to opening ceremonies, flag bearers, and torch lighting though it took me forever to figure out why. I asked my friend, a Paul Simon buff, if You Can Call Me Al was ever used as an Olympic theme song and the answer was assuredly no. Google wasn't much help either. I finally figured it out earlier this week when I heard David Foster's theme written for the 1988 Calgary Olympic games, Winter Games.

I hadn't quite yet turned 5-years old when my mum drove my sister and I three hours south from Edmonton to take in the atmosphere of the Olympics in Calgary. The significance of this was completely lost on me and I have nearly no memory of the trip, though the David Foster theme song must have been imprinted in my head. Until this week, I hadn't heard that song in 20 years, yet echoes of the song have bounced around in my head for years, latching on to the similar sounding Walking on Broken Glass and You Can Call Me Al.

Am I crazy? Listen to these:
David Foster - Winter Games (1988)
Paul Simon - You Can Call Me Al (1986)
Annie Lennox - Walking on Broken Glass (1992)

Sam Roberts - You Can Call Me Al [originally by Paul Simon]
Music store A&B Sound, home of once legendary Boxing Day sales, is on the verge of completely shutting down in the face of the competition from Future Shop & Best Buy. Founded in downtown Vancouver, the chain expanded outward and through Western Canada including two stores in Edmonton, which is how I was familiar with the chain. I bought my first Sony walkman there for $15 at one of those Boxing Day sales. In fact now that I think about it, our family's first ever DVD player came from an A&B Sound Customer Appreciation Sale too (first DVD ever: Ronin). In general, A&B Sound always had the best deals on music and the stores would always be packed. The big chains seem to have these almost fake sales, but you could always count on big deals at A&B Sound. A couple weeks ago, nearly every CD/DVD in the downtown Vancouver location was 50% off for a sale of "indefinite length", a close-out sale by any other name. Sigh. While we scoured the CDs, my friend found this Paul Simon tribute album I had never heard of. Blandly titled Tribute to Paul Simon, this was actually recorded at a tribute concert at the 2006 Montréal International Jazz Festival when Paul Simon played there that year. Featuring mostly Canadian artists such as Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo, Colin James, and Sam Roberts, Elvis Costello was also there to perform a couple Simon covers. Leonard Cohen even performs an unlikely spoken-word tribute/half-cover of The Sound of Silence... I'll definitely have to post that later.

Noah & The Whale - You Can Call Me Al [originally by Paul Simon]
A unique cover performed live on BBC's Dermot O' Leary show by English band Noah & The Whale. And in case you're wondering like I was, it's no coincidence the band's name sounds like a combination of film The Squid & The Whale and its director Noah Baumbach.


ghost.frog said...

What songs does Elvis Costello perform? I would love to hear those.

Fongolia said...

Elvis Costello performed Peace Like a River and American Tune, neither of which I'm familiar with. Maybe I can post them sometime next week... I'm away from my home computer for the next few days.

bdot said...

the track comparisons made me chuckle!!!