Is This Live?

Inside the Wild Early Years of MuchMusic: The Nation's Music Station

Publisher: Random House Canada

From the first Canadian VJ Christopher Ward, Is This Live? captures the pure fun and rock ’n’ roll rebellion of the early years of MuchMusic television.
On August 31, 1984, the Nation’s Music Station launched, breaking ground as the Wild West of Canadian television—live, gloriously unpredictable, seat-of-the-pants TV, delivered fresh daily. 
            The careers of Canadian legends like Blue Rodeo, Corey Hart, Jane Siberry, Bryan Adams, Platinum Blonde, Glass Tiger, Colin James, the Parachute Club, Honeymoon Suite, Barenaked Ladies, Maestro Fresh Wes and Sloan were launched when Much brought them closer to their fans. Much also gave us international acts (Duran, Duran, Tina Turner, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Madonna, Motorhead, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers), and covered the second wave of music activism with events like Live Aid and the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! tour. Ranging from Toronto’s iconic studio at 299 Queen Street West, to Vancouver’s MuchWest, MuchMusic’s programming travelled across Canada and connected the Canadian music scenes in an unprecedented way.
            The dream child of TV visionary Moses Znaimer, and John Martin, the maverick creator of The New Music, Much was live and largely improvised, and an entire generation of Canadians grew up watching the VJs and embraced the new music that became the video soundtrack of our lives.
           With stories of the bands, the music, the videos, the specialty shows, the style and the improvisational approach to daily broadcast life at Much, Is This Live? is told by the people who were there—the colourful cast of on-air VJs, the artists who found their way into our living rooms of the nation as never before, and the people behind the cameras. 
            As our tour guide to the first decade at MuchMusic Christopher Ward delivers a full-on dose of pop culture nostalgia from the 1980s and ’90s, when the music scene in Canada changed forever.


"It seemed, a few years ago, that almost every conversation I was having contained an affectionate reference to the early years of MuchMusic. While it amazed me how much people recalled, it also struck me that the whole phenomenon could fade from memory, living on in a few random YouTube clips and the greying...

Read More


“The [music video] medium was still young [in 1987] and its impact somewhat unnerving for artists who might go from anonymous to mob-worthy overnight, just because of a silly, viral music video. Ward captures this somewhat weird and definitely prescient media moment in time in his open oral history of Much. . . . Ward celebrates all of this raw, forward-thinking, multicultural, multigender-produced content by finally freezing it in a compelling book where, occasionally he himself wonders, ‘How the hell we’d do that?’” —Vish Khanna, The Globe and Mail

“Christopher Ward was MuchMusic’s first VJ. He would unknowingly write the rules of what was expected and what the new channel should be. . . . Thank you, Christopher, for bringing back some Much memories.” —Bill Welychka, The Kingston Whig-Standard

“An oral history . . . featuring insights from all of the early creative players . . . who acknowledge MuchMusic’s crucial role in their careers. . . . Chock full of glossy photos guaranteed to get the synapses of any enthusiasts from back in the day fired up, and it includes a mixture of fairly serious revelations and comedic stories. . . . Is This Live? is an essential chronicle of not only ’80s and ’90s Toronto, but the scenes that bumped into it and helped mold it into the dynamic music destination it is now. . . . [G]ood times await fans of the early, wild days of our local national music station.” BlogTO

“Former VJ Christopher Ward dishes up plenty of dirt on the heyday of MuchMusic in this comprehensive and personal history of the channel’s first decade, a period that defined a generation of Canadian music. It’s weird, and yes, it’ll make you want to cue up some Glass Tiger on Spotify.” —Toronto Life

“For so many of us, working at MuchMusic was a time of beautiful chaos. Christopher’s vivid storytelling transported me back to those crazy days making groundbreaking TV on a shoestring budget. He’s done a remarkable job recapturing life behind the scenes at Much with interviews and anecdotes from everyone who made The Nation’s Music Station the defining voice for Canadian pop culture in the ’80s and ’90s. What we did at 299 Queen West will never be replicated. This book explains why.” —Erica Ehm
What a blast! With a raucous mix of music and personalities, Christopher Ward has compiled the ultimate treasure trove of Canada’s 1980s rock scene. Everybody you remember is here. Revealing, entertaining, enlightening and, most all, fun.” —Will Ferguson, author of Road Trip Rwanda
“MuchMusic was my pop-culture parent. Reading Christopher Ward’s history of Much’s early days is like going back to your home and watching how it was built from the inside. I could almost smell the hairspray coming off the pages. A fascinating, moving recollection that celebrates one of the great achievements in Canadian television. Now I want to go into that tape library and live it all over again.” —Elaine Lui, author of Listen to the Squawking Chicken