Blast Radius

When two pop culture lovers get talking

An interview with Peter Goddard — supposedly about his Glenn Gould bio

THE TYPIST AND THE PIANIST: Peter Goddard hammers out a tune on his piano. The former Toronto Star journalist published a new book on Glenn Gould.

An old grandfather clock ticks out its rhythm like a metronome atop a piano­­, as former Toronto Star pop culture columnist Peter Goddard sits across from me in his Annex home.

“Classical music is disappearing,” he muses. “Toronto is forgetting that statue.”

Of course, he’s referring to the bronze sculpture of Glenn Gould sitting on a bench outside the CBC building on Front Street. In the 1960s Gould departed from making new music and moved into the studios at CBC. And he disappeared from the scene.

“The city is erupting with new ideas and Glenn Gould is not there,” Goddard recalls of the 1980s.

While doing a deep dive into the life of Glenn Gould for his latest book The Great Gould, music journalist Goddard worried we’re forgetting one of Canada’s classical musicians.

Goddard is no stranger to writing biographies about musicians. His bibliography made me stop and say, “No way.” He’s interviewed the Cars, the Police, Van Halen, Duran Duran and the Rolling Stones.

“Were you Canada’s call to Lester Bangs?” I ask as I’ve been absorbing the classic rock music critic’s works as of late.

There’s a pause, “That’s a good question.”

Then an answer: “I was the opposite. I was this guy who was unhip, uncool, un-everything,” he admits. “But I liked the music.”

He remembers his own Cameron Crowe moment when the owner of the legendary Riverboat in Yorkville was brutally frank with him.

“Bernie Fiedler said to me, ‘Man you don’t hang out’,” Goddard shares. “That was the worst criticism. It was like saying, I had no ears.”

We continue talking music like Eric Clapton riffing on Slowhand. For me, I could talk for hours about music. From the 1930s and on. It doesn’t matter what genre, but my milieu is typically the rock of the 1970s.

An hour later and we’ve talked about Goddard’s musical family roots, his writing influences Pauline Kael and Kenneth Tynan, and the advent of hip-hop, rock’s successor.

I appreciate his candor, as he’s honest with me. After all, this is a journo who interviewed Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Barry Manilow, Frank Zappa and so many more.

“I never did believe in rock and roll. It’s like a good general shouldn’t believe in war. It’s just something you do,” he says, adding he was one of the first people hired to cover the rock music beat.

He loves pop culture, like me, and asked if I was drawn to it because of my background in social anthropology.

An hour later, I realized we hadn’t really talked Gould. But he was fine with that. “You made me think. I liked our conversation.”

As I readied myself to leave, Goddard posited one last question.

“When did rock music die?”

I thought for a moment, and after an initial cop-out response, I, with an air of mourning:

“When rock started crossing genres.” And I thought to myself when that rebellious spirit of Cobain died.

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