October 28 2016 – Mike Bell, Calgary Herald.
It’s Tom Cochrane’s Mad Mad World — we’re all just living in it.
And we can now experience it a little more tangibly thanks to a new exhibition at Studio Bell celebrating the Canadian musician and the 25th anniversary of the release of his million-selling, Juno-winning album Mad Mad World.
The 63-year-old Canadian rock icon was in Calgary on Friday for a ceremony marking the opening of the temporary exhibition, Showcase: Tom Cochrane, and was both proud and humbled by the display when he walked into the room and saw it for the first time earlier in the day.
“My mind cascades through so many things when I walk through that room,” he says, noting that it ran from the odd, such as remembering a flood where he lost some of the gold records and other things he’d accumulated over the years to things such as a tour of Germany back in the day.
“There’s just a lot of memories comes cascading through. I felt a bit like a ghost walking into the room. It feels like you’re a spirit wafting through the room and the people checking out the photos of your life.”
Along with the photos, the exhibition that on the fifth floor of Studio Bell and will be on display until April 30, 2017 with paid admission into the building, there are such things as the clothes he wore in the video for Life Is A Highway, his signature 1963 Gretsch guitar, which is featured on the cover of his Victory Day album and in the video for that 1998 record’s hockey hit Big League, as well as several Juno and SOCAN Awards from his long, illustrious career.
There’s also a 15-minute long documentary on the musician that plays on a loop on a screen in the room — or, rather, “stage,” as different areas of Studio Bell are called.
Interestingly and rather impressively, the entire thing came together in the span of five weeks, says Adam Fox, the director of programs for NMC, with the anniversary of Mad Mad World — the album that shot him to international stardom — an obvious “opportunity to celebrate (Cochrane’s) career and tell his story.”
Showcase: Tom Cochrane is the first temporary exhibition featuring material from the extensive EMI Music Canada Archives, which Universal Music Canada, the company that acquired EMI in 2012, donated to the University of Calgary last year and was announced earlier this spring to coincide with Juno Week in the city.
As to how much input the artist, himself, had in what the final display looked like and what was used, Fox says NMC always has “editorial autonomy,” but that they reached out to Cochrane and his management for some of the artifacts and memorabilia, and flew a producer to Toronto where he did some onscreen interviews for the short film.
“I think we’ve proven that artists can trust us to tell stories that are going to connect their audiences to them,” says Fox, before adding, “They were overjoyed with it.”
Cochrane, who was also set to perform a private concert in the King Eddy on Friday night, concurs, admitting he was “overwhelmed” by the care with which the National Music Centre had taken in putting the exhibition together as well as the entire thought that went into the building itself.
He points to comments he’d made earlier during the ceremony, about music being like a soul that lives on constantly reminding you of earlier times and experiences and people in your life.
“A song is a snapshot of that, it reminds us that there is a soul,” he says. “And this building celebrates that, celebrates our culture as well … It just makes you aware of how rich our culture is as a country, in terms of the music that we’ve provided.”
The Friday opening of the exhibition also coincides with a deluxe reissue of Mad Mad World as well as the announcement of plans for a cross-country tour in 2017 with his former band Red Rider, with dates and ticket information to be announced on Monday, and a commemorative coffee table book.
Cochrane admits it’s a bit odd to be asked to revisit his past, with this exhibit, the album and all that surrounds it, as well as a recent ceremony where he was feted by World Vision for all that the work he has done to contribute to the charity —documented, also, by the release of another film that highlights his philanthropic work titled 25 Years On The Highway.
But he also says it’s been a somewhat inspiring time for him, too.
“This rejuvenates me,” he says, referencing the Bob Dylan lyric of “don’t look back.” He continues. “I think you shouldn’t dwell on the past really, you should be moving forward. It’s best if you can live in the now but so many of us find that hard to do, me included. But I think it’s healthy to do a little bit of this, but I like to try to move forward.
“To be honest with you it would be a lot of fun if I was talking about a new record because I’ve been over the terrain of Mad Mad World … but, again, these songs are my life’s blood.
“When I get in front of an audience and we play No Regrets, we play Life Is A Highway and Sinking Like A Sunset and you see how it inspires people and the energy you get back from that, that’s pretty magical.”
Showcase: Tom Cochrane is on display now at Studio Bell until April 30, 2017 and free to view with paid admission.