Never Give Up (Part 2)

The conclusion of my 30-year quest to identify a song, with a surprise ending.

Never Give Up (Part 2)
Turn Up The Music

(If you haven't read Part 1, do that first!)

When we last left this story, I was in my garage, holding a cassette tape of a poorly recorded song from the radio 30 years earlier. No tech had yet helped me identify it – not any search engine (including Google), not any IRC channel, not Napster, not Shazam...nothing.

But, being who I am – a person unable to not know a thing – I resolved to keep at it. So, I reviewed what facts I had and what clues I possessed:

  1. Growing up in Canada, I knew there was a strong possibility it was a Canadian artist; Canadian broadcasting rules mandated 35% of airtime be guaranteed to Canadian musicians.
  2. I'd made the recording in '84, so this led me to believe it either originated that year or perhaps in the years previous. It had the feel of a pop song that matched the genre of the emerging 80s (as opposed to the disco popularity of the previous decade).
  3. I had the song fragment itself (albeit badly recorded) which was enough for me to make out some of the lyrics such that I could transcribe them, then use that to match against a search.

The chorus remained forever burned into my brain – generic by lyrical standards, but no less infectious as a hook, even with the passing of time.

Turn up the music
Turn down the lights
Turn up the music
Turn on the night

The first tactic involved bringing identify_this_song_plz.mp3 up to today's technological standards. I converted the MP3 to a video clip and uploaded it YouTube; no more emailing attachments or initiating a binary transfer over IRC to potential sleuths.

Next, I turned to /r/tipofmytongue, a Reddit community dedicated to identifying obscure songs. I pleaded my case and hoped I would get a bite. Meanwhile, I looked for folks on Twitter that a) had a hefty following, and b) were likely to help me spread the word. One potential candidate I followed for years was Anil Dash; he referred me to MetaFilter, where I mirrored my plea.

One of the Reddit detectives revealed their scan of the SOCAN database, mixing / matching terms and lyrics while eliminating all the generic matches I'd seen countless times over the years.

A potential match emerged:

TURN UP THE MUSIC 10000519 Name Affiliation IPI # LOVSIN JOHN J S CA SOCAN 36562482 ALMO MUSIC OF CANADA E SOCAN 201723811

I glanced at the name. "John Lovsin" – and remembered a search result from years ago, something I considered a dead-end (at the time). A musician named Johnnie Lovesin had a string of hits in the late 70s / early 80s, but his digital catalog was practically non-existent. Any time I managed to find a clip of him jamming out, I was met with classic rock guitar riffs – a far cry from the synthesized pop tune I was trying to identify.

I wondered, was I wrong, all those years back? Could this be the artist?

One of the MetaFilter detectives used my YouTube clip to ping a Twitter account @BeatElectric, which claimed to specialize in "posting trax from back in the day when sh*t was just a little bit cooler." He questioned the account with similar skepticism; @BeatElectric replied confidently:

I took note of this response for one important reason: An instrumental dub would likely be the b-side of a single, perhaps one mixed for radio play.

Mixed. For. Radio. Play.

If a song wouldn't get a lot of airtime because of its style being in direct conflict with "what the kids were listening to," wouldn't a production label opt to mix it such that it could be played on the radio? Two examples immediately popped into my mind: Enya's "Only Time" and Loreena McKennit's "The Mummers' Dance." I distinctly recalled how Loreena wasn't pleased with her remix, as it transformed the song into pop/dance, making the song essentially unrecognizable to the artist that created it.

Unrecognizable, perhaps....but, 100% playable on the radio.

The theory had merit. I began scouring legacy vinyl databases for any references to Lovesin, Lovsin, Turn up the Music, Instrumental Dub, etc. This led me to, a site listing one very interesting entry:

LOVESIN, JOHNNIE - Turn Up The Music/Turn Up The Music Instrumental Dub 7" Single

But still. no. clip. I contacted them directly, desperate to convince them to digitize a clip of the song, so that I verify it with my own two ears. They could not.

How would I verify this?

A few months later, after both MetaFilter and Reddit's detective work began to run cold, a random person reached out to me, commenting on my original YouTube clip:

A lone YouTube comment offering a confident answer

A possible confirmation? I reached out to the commenter, requesting a sample. They shared a clip with me. I downloaded, unpacked the archive, and fired up the MP3.

It. was. the. song.

After thirty long years of amateur detective work, my path had finally come to an end. I worked with Tim at cdBBQ to order a copy of the 45er, along with a digitization and audio cleanup of it. After all, I had some degree of confidence that no high quality digital version existed.

Case closed...with a twist

After three decades of tenacity and perseverance, my quest had come to an end. Still, one stone left unturned. My obsession with the song compelled me to see if Johnnie himself was still around. I scoured Facebook for his fan page, found it, and reached out, hoping to include his song in a podcast.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when Johnnie wrote back with the following message:

My FB chat with Johnnie Lovesin, the musician himself

Not only was he happy to allow me use of his song, he'd had a chance to learn of my journey. Through his son, he'd learned of my research and of my relentless quest to identify his song. I was humbled and honored. Never had I imagined, those decades ago, as I clawed away at weeds while listening to his music, that I would one day get the chance to meet meet him online, to speak with him about my decades pursuit of his craft. For that chance to share it with, I am truly grateful.

I may have only recently emerged as a fan of his music, but I hope this story speaks for my years-long dedication to his fandom in spirit. Johnnie, I was a fan since that day in 1984. I just didn't know it yet!

...but I did know one thing that day: once I decide to do something...I won't give up until it's done.

Johnnie Lovesin - Turn Up The Music