Whether you care about Canada 150—are against it, love it, hate it or are having the biggest party of your life this weekend—I wanted to supply you with 5 personal quintessential CanCon classics which I hope you enjoy as much as I do. This was really hard because I could have easily done the 5 best Canadian ’60s psych, ’80s pop, Vancouver punk, ’80s garage rock, ’90s indie, etc.—but here it goes…
The Pointed Sticks – I’M Numb (1979)
Hands down my favourite Vancouver band of all time. They were the first, and possibly only Canadian band to sign to Stiff Records in England. They put out a handful of 7-inch singles and one album before they broke up in 1981. I discovered them in my teens as I was hanging around with people like Nardwuar the Human Serviette and other older friends who had a wealth of knowledge of Canadian punk history. Tony, the Pointed Sticks’ bass player, taught me how to play bass and my first band covered their song “Somebody’s Mom“—he never taught me “The Real Thing“, as he said it would be too hard, doh! They reformed in 2006 and have since toured Japan and Canada.
Thor – Keep the Dogs Away (RCA 1977)
Canadian metal’s answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Thor started out in 1973 as a concept band by Jon Mikl Thor, a bodybuilding lead singer. He was the first Canadian to win both the Mr. USA and Mr. Canada championships. I first discovered him after he appeared with the Evaporators on stage as they covered his songs. Thor has two amazing stage tricks: 1) he can blow up a hot water bottle with his lungs and make it burst like a balloon and 2) he can bend a steel bar in two. He’s been doing these tricks since the ’70s and still performs them on stage!!
Lisa Lougheed – Run With Us (Run Records 1987)
I had to pick this as it’s a song every Canadian child grows up with—that is if you watched CBC Television. The Raccoons was on from 1985-1992, and this is the end credit theme song. I think it’s pretty much-known worldwide. It’s so Canadian through and reminds me of being a kid and watching Canadian TV, and I’ve always wanted to cover it. Lisa Lougheed was a contemporary of Alanis Morrisette in the ’80s. The music video is so ’80s and even has a few clips from the cartoon.
Slow – Have Not Been The Same
If you read the description blurb of this video on YouTube, it credits Vancouver’s Slow for inventing grunge. I don’t know how true that is but it’s highly possible. I completely believe the story that they wore plaid before anyone in Seattle, as this video is from 1986 and they look pretty grunge. The band was also surrounded by controversy that year as they were the first band to play the local stage at Expo 86, where they stripped down and mooned the crowd during their set. The Expo officials cut the power while they were on stage, the police detained them and there was a mini protest outside a TV station. Getting worried, Expo officials decided to cancel the rest of the local band programming. This story has gone down as legend in the Vancouver music scene. I was only 5 at Expo 86, but the first time I met lead singer Thomas Anselmi, I asked him about it. Anselmi also went to the same high school as me (10 years prior of course) and is probably the second most famous person from that school after Joshua Jackson (Mighty Ducks/Dawson’s Creek)—that’s how small Vancouver is!
The Ugly Ducklings – Gaslight
I always say Canada has a rich ’60s rock ‘n’ roll history, just not too many people have heard of our bands. Well, here’s a great example of another great Canadian ’60s number. This is one of my favorite garage rock songs of all time. The passion in Dave Bingham‘s voice still makes me emotional every time I hear it. I just start screaming “Gaaaasss light” along whenever it comes on the stereo. The Ugly Ducklings were active in the mid-’60s and hailed from Toronto. “Gaslight” was their one and only Top 40 hit.