My love of Canadian music goes all the way back to the summer of 1967. At the time, I was a naive, unworldly 12 year old living in Bala, Ontario. A friend and I were playing in his front yard when two guys from the Toronto-based rock band, The Ugly Ducklings walked by. They had a big hit called Gaslight and were playing a concert that evening at The Kee, Bala’s renowned concert hall. In any event, they had long hair, so I yelled to them, “Are you boys or girls?’ One of them turned and lifted up the front of his shirt. It was years later before I understood the meaning of that gesture!
Before the end of the 60s, the Guess Who took the country and the world by storm with hits like These Eyes and Laughing, and I was hooked.
Canadian music flourished in the 70s with the Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Neil Young, Rush, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Five Man Electrical Band, the Stampeders, Max Webster, April Wine, Lighthouse, Prism and Klaatu, not to mention a slew of lesser known bands like Crowbar, Steel River, Fludd, Edward Bear, Pagliaro and The Bells. A ton of great songs came out of that era, the biggest including American Woman by the Guess Who, Takin’ Care of Business by BTO, Heart of Gold by Neil Young and If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lightfoot.
I had a couple of interesting Canadian music moments during that time period. At a high school dance in Bracebridge in the early 70s, I happened to be standing by the stage watching Crowbar perform (you might remember Oh What a Feeling) when I saw a teacher ‘rat out’ the band to the police, who proceeded to bust them for marijuana possession. Interestingly, in a magazine article a few months later, the band denied doing drugs.
Then in 1976, I was at an Octoberfest party at a large dance hall in Kitchener and we happened to snag a table right in front of the stage where The Bells (who had the hit song Stay Awhile) were performing. Between sets, the band joined us at our table and during the last set, lead singer Anne Ralph wore my Bracebridge Bears hockey jersey. Man, did I feel important!
Things didn’t slow down much in the 80s with bands like the Payolas, Honeymoon Suite, Glass Tiger, Loverboy and Saga rocking the airwaves along with solo artists like Bryan Adams, Kim Mitchell and Tom Cochrane. They produced a host of classics including New Girl Now, On the Loose and Summer of ’69. But without a doubt the biggest Canadian act of the 80s was Rush. In fact, they were one of the biggest in the world with some great songs like Tom Sawyer, Closer to the Heart and Spirit of the Radio.
Then came to 90s and three of the best and most successful Canadian bands of all time: The Tragically Hip, The Barenaked Ladies and Blue Rodeo. They along with lesser known acts such as Junkhouse, The Tea Party and Our Lady Peace meant a lot of amazing music throughout the decade, including songs like 50 Mission Cap by the Hip, Try by Blue Rodeo, Brian Wilson by BNL and Heaven’s Coming Down by the Tea Party.
In the 2000s , unfortunately rock music took a backseat to hip hop and rap. Still, if you like Nickleback, Sam Roberts and Sum 41, who are more of a pop-punk band, it wasn’t too bad a time.
So, here it is then, my favourite Canadian rock songs:
- Hasn’t Hit Me Yet … Blue Rodeo
- No Time … The Guess Who
- Old Apartment … Barenaked Ladies
- Pretty Lady … Lighthouse
- Shine … Junkhouse
- Bobcaygeon … Tragically Hip
- Eyes of a Stranger … Payolas
- All We Are … Kim Mitchell
- Powderfinger … Neil Young
- Pieces … Sum 41
- Sub-Rosa Subway … Klaatu
- Scratching the Surface … Saga
- Signs … Five Man Electrical Band
- Tonight is a Wonderful Time … April Wine
- Big League … Tom Cochrane
There are a lot of good songs not included on this list, but that’s okay. With Youtube, you can go on an adventure a discover them yourself.
Have an awesomely nostalgic day!