333sound

Video Vault, Episode 16: Trees Lounge

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When I was growing up in Canada, I was a devoted viewer of MuchMusic, Canada’s music video station. It was the quirkier, weirder cousin to MTV at the time (now it looks much the same, sadly). The VJs were less slick, less attractive, and nerdier, and the set was DIY, mostly comprising the poorly lit confines of the Toronto studio where the station lived. Canada’s mandated CanCon rules, which dictated that certain percentages of all media content broadcast in Canada had to be Canadian made, meant that there was–at least before Canadian pop music boomed in the mid- to late-nineties–a lot of time that the VJs had to fill. (Fun fact: One of the most popular VJs when I was growing up was a cigar chomping, womanizing sock puppet called Ed the Sock, who predates and may have inspired Conan O’Brien’s Triumph the Insult Comic Dog).

150px-Edthesock

The one and only, Ed the Sock

This time of year, I’m reminded of MuchMusic’s tree toss–a tradition that started in the 80s to help the station send off their Christmas tree in style after the 25th (and, presumably, to fill some airtime). As a teen, I usually watched the top 100 best videos of the year countdown while waiting for the tree toss; and, while it was happening, I tried to anticipate what tree-themed videos they would play around the toss.

Here’s a compilation of tree tosses over the years. Note the changing styles, the switch to better quality video, and the addition of tree pyrotechnics in the 90s. It’s all a metaphor for mass media, you guys:

The tree-themed song I remember most fondly is by Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden, who wrote “Trees Lounge” for the indie film by the same name, written, directed by, and starring Steve Buscemi (his feature film debut as writer/director) and Chloe Sevigny. It’s about a disaffected alcoholic who starts dating a friend’s teenage daughter (Sevigny), which is also a theme in Hayden’s most famous song, “Bad as They Seem.” (“Girl of my dreams/things are as bad as they seem/she’s only 16/that’s why she’s only a dream”).  Buscemi reportedly selected Hayden for the soundtrack personally. The resulting song is great, as is the video (Debbi Mazar, guys!). As is the film! It’s also all so deliciously 90s.

Furthermore–Trees Lounge was very well received and came to the attention of then fledgling TV writer David Chase, who liked the darkly comedic feel. It influenced his writing of a pilot for HBO about a crime family called The Sopranos. Later, Chase hired Buscemi to play Tony Soprano’s cousin and Buscemi wrote and directed a few episodes of the show. So, no big D, right?

Enjoy, and happy holidays all. Good luck tossing your trees.

-Kaitlin

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