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Location:
MacMaster University bar in Hamilton.

1987-19886th Annual

winner

JOE CARNATION
Shadow of the Moon
Jasper Blues

2nd

SANDY MacKAY
Praise Him Jesus and His Backup Band
Sex Camel

Honourable Mention

PETER ROSS
Cry Baby
Emotions

Recollection of Peter Ross:
Guitar Cup reaches its peak frenzy at McMaster University in Hamilton. 15 entrants this year – including, for the first time, a woman! There are perhaps a hundred people in attendance at this event. 40 of them came in a rented party bus from Toronto. This year’s Guitar Cup was broadcast on the university’s radio station – but pre-recorded instead of a live broadcast because, I don’t recall why. It turned out to be a bad idea. This foreknowledge of a winner would eventually result in a scandal. Peter, who now works for a software development company, employs a first-generation accounting program to score the contest. Peter also develops judging criteria [which, interestingly, become part of the course curriculum for a sociology methods course at St Paul’s University in the USA]. This is the first and only time that official judging criteria are used in the Guitar Cup. Joe Carnation is crowned champion after Peter abdicates on account of a scandal involving the judges and the accounting software. Nevertheless, such a very good time was had by all that the university’s entire security force was eventually summoned to ‘escort’ the Guitar Cup celebrants off the premises.

Joe Carnation


Graph


Score Card

Guitar Cup - Text and Rules - from 6th Annual (1987)

Guitar Cup is a musical contest with a few twists. Sometimes it is easier to explain what it is not, rather than what it is. For instance, Guitar Cup is not a Battle-of-the-Bands. It does not have any prises, except for a name plaque on the Guitar Cup itself. It does not try to propel winners into circles of commercial success (though numerous contestants have gone on to professional and musical victories of various sorts). In fact, Guitar Cup does not have any good reason to exist, except that it does.

Guitar Cup has no rules. It does, however, have precedents and traditions which form a Common Law of Guitar Cup.

  1. All entries must include two songs. This is done for two reasons. Firstly, it is more challenging to come up with a winning combination than simply a winning hit. Secondly, no other contest does this, and so, by default, it falls to us to do so. Remember we are not here to judge the best song. We are here to judge the best entry. If an entry includes one masterful piece and one junky piece, the judges must decide if the one song can carry the other.

  2. By definition, each entry must be written, produced, and performed by the same person. Despite the fact that this content is run early in [1988], the entries are supposed to be have been written and produced in the calendar year of 1987. A great deal of leniency is demonstrated with regards to this ruling. For instance, though an entrant must have written the entry, they may enter work they have co-written. Though they are supposed to produce and perform the work themselves, they can draw on any number of “ringers” to assist them Inevitably we view music as a social exercise. Those people who are able to exercise their special social skills and charm to the benefit of their music should benefit accordingly.

  3. Each year, the Guitar Cup is defended by the previous year’s winner. In this respect, the contest feels more like America’s Cup than say a beauty contest. The defending champion’s entry is played first, and defends itself against all comers. A successful defence is rare, but not unheard of. As a matter of precedent and honour, the defending champion is expected to draw more upon their own talent than those of outside ‘ringer’. The competition is getting tougher. I expect this honour and precedent may give way to all-out production efforts. But who knows? It is possible that a new age of low-production heroes is upon us.

  4. There is one rule that is a HARD rule. Whoever is declared the winner by the judges must be at the Awards Banquet in order to collect the prise. There are no exceptions to this rule. If the winner is not there, then the prise and honours go to the runner-up.

  5. Gushers (Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you know lies).

  6. The Guitar Cup. This fabulous, much-coveted item was created by Ted Judge back in the first year of the contest. In fact, it is not a cup at all. It is a sculpture on a stand. Each year a new plaque is added with the name of the newest champion and the titles of their songs. The winner gets to take the Cup home with them and proudly display it for a year. However the Guitar Cup is the property of the Guitar Cup Committee and the Committee retains the irrevocable right to take the Guitar Cup back at any time for any reason without notice.

  7. New rules can be created by a consensus of the Guitar Cup entrants or by a ruling of the Guitar Cup Committee. The judges are free to ignore any rules imposed by the contestants or Committee ... just who the hell do we think we are anyway?

  8. Judging criteria have been established and will be consistent over time [Well that turned out to be an optimistic prediction, hey? PNR]. Every effort has been made to make the scoring fair ... but then, the world is not a fair place. There are no rules in Guitar Cup. Anything goes. Bribing the judges is expensive, but certainly not out of the question. Only peer pressure keep things from getting completely out of hand. If you see a contestant or judge behaving in an unfair fashion, you are welcome to take your objection to the Guitar Cup Committee. [A fat lot of good that will do. PNR]

  9. Peter Ross chooses the judges and criteria. He is also a contestant. There is no conflict here. There just isn’t.

Guitar Cup Scoring Criteria [These criteria were only used once – and most of the contestants hated them. PNR]
Note: Each category is to be scored out of 10, for a potential maximum of 100 points.


  1. Extraordinary Use of Guitar: After all, this is the “guitar” Cup.

  2. Original Concept: Is this something completely different? Is it a provocative example of a traditional form? High marks are given to anyone who is completely out of step with their peers.

  3. Creative Concept: Has the artist created the correct ambience for the subject matter? Has every effort been made to support the original musical concept?

  4. Composition: High marks for structuralism. High marks for ethnic correctness. High marks for cool guitar riffs. The more chords, the more marks. Low marks for predictable cliché themes.

  5. Creative Production: Since contestants don’t have equal access to production equipment, it is actually the policy of the Guitar Cup to discount differences based purely on production quality. However, recording is a technical art, and those who make best use of production resources (be they limited or extensive) should benefit from this score.

  6. Creative Instrumentation: Artistic versatility and the number of real instruments brought into play. Is the contestant pushing him or herself into new, unexplored musical territory? Bravo is they are able to confer a more general nature on their music through a wide use of individual peculiarities.

  7. Use of Voice: Speaking in tongues score high points. Coughing, laughing, using digital rain or animal sounds all contribute to this total. Voice applies to both human instruments and instrumental equivalents. Do the voices work well together. Can you believe what you are hearing? Normally harmonies and good lyrics would score well in this category. However, instrumentation or sound effects carrying messages might also do well.

  8. Emotionalism: Songs that would cause someone to espouse a new religion would do especially well in this category. However, if you find yourself tapping a toe, or humming along, repeating the chorus, and dancing and/or crying, then give high marks. The music must have tapped your emotional reservoir. Charitable marks can be given to musicians who are clearly giving it their all.

  9. Appreciation: Does this entry uphold the very best principals of Guitar Cup? Give judicious marks for any kinds of precedents. High marks also for humility, integrity, and contributions to musical posterity.

  10. Marketability: What is the maximum amount, up to $10 you would pay as a cover charge to see this act perform at a club or concert?


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