One day in the spring of 1993 as I was preparing for my afternoon shift at 102.1 the Edge, I was paged to reception. Waiting for me was an awkward-looking teenager with big, thick glasses.
“Hi,” he mumbled, not meeting my eyes as he handed me a cassette. “I’m in a band I was hoping I you could listen to our demo. My phone number is on the inside. Thank you.” And with that, he turned around and left.
I looked at the cassette. Nothing special, really. Track names like “Blind Anniversary” and “Out of Here” scrawled out in block letters in pen with DEMO written at the top. I’d been handed hundreds of similar tapes over the years. Did I listen to the kid’s tape? No. I think I tossed it in a box reserved for Dave Bookman’s Indie Hour show.
That sounds callous, but none of us on the Edge staff could possibly keep up with the volume of demos we received. Going through unsolicited demos wasn’t a priority for anyone but Bookie, and he’d be the first to say that 75% of the submissions could be classified as “terrible,” 20% “good” and 5% “exceptional.” Finding gold in that pile of gravel was hard slogging.
Years later, I realized that the gawky 17-year-old kid in the glasses was drummer Jeremy Taggart. He came by to tell me about his new band called Our Lady Peace.
Information about the band’s early demo cassettes is sketchy and incomplete. Something known as Demo #1 appeared in January 1992 and featured three songs: the two mentioned above and a third untitled song. It was followed in March by Demo #2, recorded with the intention of being a full album, but the band ran out of money after just three more songs.
A friend mentioned that he was going down to the CMJ Music Festival in New York, so the group dubbed those six songs onto a series of cassettes in a quick’n’dirty way: no artwork, no liner notes—just the name of the band, the song titles and a phone number. Those cassettes were handed out at the conference and resulted in label interest and eventually a bidding war for the group. Not all of these cassettes went to NYC because a few were kept back. I’m pretty sure I was one of the recipients of one of those cassettes.
Dammit. I threw away my personal copy of the tape that led to OLP’s major label deal. Idiot.
I’ve since tried to track down a copy, but with no luck. Even the giant Discogs database has no record of anything from that early in the band’s career.
Occasionally, something like a pre-release promo cassette of Naveed shows up on eBay, but it’s official Sony product and nothing close to the indie demo. Another six-song promo aimed at the American market issued through Relativity Records can be found, too.
In 2015, OLP began rooting around in their vaults for old material to release for free online. Songs from a trove of old DATs dating as far back to 1993 were downloaded by fans. Fascinating stuff, but still not what I was looking for.
As OLP artifacts go, a personalized mixtape would be in Holy Grail territory for band fanatics and I tossed mine away. How many ever existed? A dozen? Five? Just that one?
OLP’s eight studio albums have sold millions of copies. At one point in the 90s, an OLP album could be expected to debut at #1 on the Canadian charts and reliable sell 20,000 copies every week for months on end. The unveiling of any new video was an event. They won tons of awards for both their music and social activism. Their run was that good.
And here in 2017, they continue to play gigs. Their next event is coming up July 1 when they’ll play for the grandstand at the 158th running of the Queen’s Plate, which is part of a Canada 150 celebration. (The Goo Goo Dolls play the following day. Tickets for both days start at $30 and can be found here.)
After the OLP broke through a few years later, I ended up knowing Jeremy really well. He went from a shy kid to one of the friendliest, most likable and funniest guys I’d ever met. I told him the story about the lost demo tape and he laughed.
“Brother,” he said, “I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t have kept it, either. It sure would be cool to have it, though. Fans would go bananas for it!
That cassette fiasco turned me into a hoarder. Anything that anyone sends to me, I keep. A good number of them are safely stored in my CD vault (I have a whole room devoted to them) while there are boxes and boxes of unfiled CDs (and more than a few cassettes) in the basement waiting to be transmuted into gold.
It’s never happened. Not once.
I know that 99% of these demos will never amount to anything, but when a new demo first arrives, you never, ever know, right?
“I’m going to have a 90s weekend,” said Kate. She’s my personal trainer and she had just again pushed to be to the verge of a serious myocardial infarction. “I was going through my CDs and found Clumsy! And then I found Naveed! And Happiness! I loved them so much. I bought everything they ever released in the 90s. No one was a bigger fan than me.!”
Fortunately, I didn’t have the breath to tell what I had. Once.
UPDATE! Ex-OLPer Mike Turner sent this: