By Adam Bunch
THE BIRTH OF THE LOVIN’ SPOONFUL
It all started in the basement of the Albert Hotel in New York City’s Greenwich Village. It was the early 1960s. A Toronto guitarist by the name of Zal Yanovsky had been living there with some friends and former bandmates, but most of them were gone now – they’d recently dropped acid, thrown a dart at a map and headed off to the Virgin Islands to become The Mamas and The Papas. Yanovsky stayed behind. Instead of becoming Papa Zal, he teamed up with another friend – a harmonica player named John Sebastian – and they started to write some songs together. When their neighbours complained about the noise, the pair was forced down into the hotel’s basement, where they rehearsed their upbeat pop tunes surrounded by cockroaches and puddles.
It was a humble beginning for one of the most popular bands of the 1960s: The Lovin’ Spoonful. But they would soon leave that basement behind. The band’s very first single, “Do You Believe In Magic,” headed straight up the charts, all the way to the Top 10 – and that was just the beginning. Their second single was called “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice.” It was released during this week in 1965. After that, they did it again and again and again. The Lovin’ Spoonful put every single one of their first seven singles into the Top 10 – a better start to their career than even The Beatles or The Rolling Stones had enjoyed. Three decades later, Zal Yanovksy would be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
“YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO BE SO NICE” BY THE LOVIN’ SPOONFUL
CANADA’S FIRST VIOLINS
The story starts in the 1530s. That’s when the French explorer Jacques Cartier led an expedition up the St. Lawrence River – with more than a little help from the local First Nations – to become the first European ever to set eyes on that part of Canada. At the very same time that Cartier and his men were spending a winter stuck in the ice not far from where Quebec City is now, a new musical instrument was becoming popular back on the other side of the Atlantic. The European violin had gradually evolved from a series of Middle Eastern stringed instruments and now it was catching on.
It would be another few decades before Quebec City was founded, but when it was, the violin followed close behind. There were still only a few hundred people living in town when the first violins arrived. Many of those early inhabitants were Jesuit missionaries, and it was one of them who made an interesting note that has been passed down to us nearly 400 years later. It was during this week in 1645 that two violins were played at a wedding in Quebec City. It was, as far as we know, the very first time the sound of a violin was ever heard in Canada.
“O CANADA” ON VIOLIN
By Adam Bunch
ANNE MURRAY’S “URBAN COWBOY” NO. 1
John Travolta was still a fresh-faced young actor back in 1980. He’d only played a leading role in two films at that point, but they happened to be two of the biggest films of the 1970s: Saturday Night Fever and Grease. They helped to make him an international superstar – and music played a very important role in both of those movies.
His new film would be no different. Travolta had already done disco and 1950s pop, now Urban Cowboy would capitalize on the popularity of country music. While the movie raked in money at the box office, the soundtrack would rocket all the way up the Billboard country charts to No. 1 – thanks, in part, to a smash hit by Anne Murray.
“Could I Have This Dance” followed the Urban Cowboy soundtrack on its journey up the country charts, hitting No. 1 during this week in 1980. It was already her fifth country chart-topper and the 10th time she’d broken into the Top 40 on the pop charts. Murray was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1993.
“COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE” BY ANNE MURRAY IN “URBAN COWBOY”
THE GODFATHER OF CELTIC MUSIC IN CANADA
They called him the Godfather of Celtic Music in Canada: a Cape Breton folk singer so popular, in fact, that he was named a member of the Order of Canada and awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the East Coast Music Awards. There’s no doubt that John Allan Cameron left a deep and lasting legacy in folk music scenes from one end of our country to the other.
But it didn’t always look like he was going to have a career in music. In the 1950s, Cameron had started out thinking that he was going to become a priest, changing his mind and getting a papal dispensation only a few short months before his ordination was scheduled to take place. Instead, he found his true calling in the 12-string guitar. By the end of the 1960s, Cameron had released his first full-length album. Nine more would follow by the end of his career. He performed at the Newport Folk Festival and the Mariposa Folk Festival and for Canadian troops stationed all over the world. He also became a fixture on the CBC: first on the famous “Singalong Jubilee” TV program (which also helped to launch the careers of Catherine McKinnon and Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Anne Murray) and then, in the 1970s, as the host of his very own shows.
His impressive career spanned an amazing five decades and is remembered by the profound influence he had on more than one generation of Canadian folk artists. It was during this week in 2006 that John Allan Cameron passed away.
JOHN ALLAN CAMERON TRIBUTE
By Adam Bunch
ANOTHER NO. 1 FOR HANK SNOW
It was originally written by an Australian; the 1950s country song “I’ve Been Everywhere” was penned by singer-songwriter Geoff Mack. It was a travelling tune listing off a cornucopia of cities, towns and villages from around Mack’s homeland of Australia. Not long after it was first released, the song caught the attention of one of the biggest country music stars in the entire world: Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Hank Snow.
Snow decided to record his own version of the tune. But first, he rewrote it a bit. This time, instead of verses about Australian places, it would feature places from North America. Instead of singing about spots such as Mooloolaba, Wallumbilla, Woolloomooloo, Tuggerawong and Yeerongpilly, he’d sing about places like Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston, Waterloo and Fond du Lac.
It proved to be a very good decision. Snow’s version of “I’ve Been Everywhere” was a smash hit produced by the legendary Chet Atkins. During this week in 1962, it was sitting right at the very top of the Billboard country chart.
“I’VE BEEN EVERYWHERE” BY HANK SNOW
THE BIRTH OF THREE WESTERN CANADIAN SYMPHONIES
Three of Western Canada’s biggest cities can trace the roots of their symphony orchestras back to this particular week in history.
The oldest is the one that started in Vancouver all the way back during this week in 1897 – 117 years ago – when 23 musicians teamed up with a conductor to play classical music at an old theatrical venue called Dunn Hall. They called themselves the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, but they didn’t last very long: the group disbanded after only three performances. The modern version of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra wouldn’t be permanently revived until 1930 and, before long, it had established itself as one of the most successful groups in Canada. By the end of the 1970s, the VSO had more subscribers than any other symphony orchestra on the entire continent. As recently as 2008, the VSO walked away with the JUNO Award for Classical Album of the Year.
By the time Vancouver’s was back up and running, the other two orchestras were well under way. It was during this week in 1913 that the Calgary Symphony Orchestra gave its very first performance. Decades later, it would merge with the Alberta Philharmonic to become the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Today, 101 years after that first performance, it’s still going strong.
The youngest of the three is the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, which turns 94 years old this week. It started off as a community orchestra in 1910, was suspended in the ’20s and revived in the ’50s. In the time since, Edmonton’s orchestra hasn’t been afraid to crossover and collaborate with stars from the world of pop music. It’s performed with everyone from Frank Zappa to Ben Folds and with Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees including k.d. lang and Tom Cochrane. In 1976, the ESO even teamed up with Procol Harum to record Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The album’s biggest single, “Conquistador,” became the very first “classical” recording ever to go Platinum.
“CONQUISTADOR” BY PROCOL HARUM AND THE EDMONTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
By Adam Bunch
BRYAN ADAMS MAKES IT BIG
Bryan Adams was only 25 years old when he became an international superstar. However, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee was far from an overnight success. He was born in Kingston, Ontario, and grew up travelling all over the world. His father was a United Nations peacekeeper turned diplomat and his postings took the family to Portugal, Austria and Israel. Finally, though, Adams settled back home in Canada – in Vancouver – where he began to make a name for himself as a young musician. He was still just a teenager in the 1970s when he began to play in his first bands and to establish his career as a session musician, including regular gigs for the CBC.
The next step came in 1978, when Adams was only 18 years old. That’s when he met Jim Vallance, a slightly older and more experienced musician. The two became songwriting partners and by the end of the year Adams had signed his first recording contract for the staggering sum of exactly $1.
His solo career started slowly. His self-titled debut came out two years later and was, at first, such a moderate success that Adams considered calling his second record “Bryan Adams Hasn’t Heard of You Either.” But things were about to change. His sophomore release, You Want It You Got It, produced Adams’ first Top 40 single in Canada – and it was just a hint of what was to come. His third record, Cuts Like a Knife, took off. The album produced three Top 10 singles and the entire LP broke into the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. There was no question now: Bryan Adams was a star.
It was his next album that made him a superstar. It was during this week in 1984 that Reckless first appeared on record store shelves. It produced six singles that climbed into the top 15 slots on the Billboard charts – including “Summer of ’69” and “Run to You” – joining Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. as the only previous albums to have ever pulled off that feat. This time, Adams made it all the way to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and, to date, the record has sold more than 12 million copies. Exactly 30 years after it was first released, Reckless is still widely considered to be one of the greatest Canadian albums of all time.
“SUMMER OF ’69” BY BRYAN ADAMS
TWO GOLD RECORDS FOR SHANIA TWAIN
This was also a big week for another Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee. It was during this week in 1996 that Shania Twain’s self-titled debut album was certified Gold. It had been released three years earlier, but it wasn’t a big hit right away. It was Twain’s second album, The Woman in Me, that made her a star – and that’s when all of her new fans went looking for her earlier album, which would, in fact, eventually go Platinum. The Windsor, Ontario–born singer-songwriter went on to become the best-selling female artist in the entire history of country music.
The following year, she was back at it again. It was during this week in 1997 that Twain landed another Gold certification. This time, it was for a single off of her third record, Come on Over. “Love Gets Me Every Time” rocketed up the charts: it spent six weeks at the top of the country charts in Canada and five in the United States, making it one of Twain’s biggest hits ever.
“LOVE GETS ME EVERY TIME” BY SHANIA TWAIN
By Adam Bunch
“SWEET CITY WOMAN” HITS THE TOP 10
In 1971, you’d be hard-pressed to find any Canadian band bigger than the Stampeders, and by then, the group had already been around for years. The band originally formed in Calgary – just as you might expect – as five high-school students calling themselves The Rebounds. This was all the way back in 1964, in the early days of Beatlemania and the British Invasion, but the Stampeders, as they soon began to call themselves, were a distinctly Canadian group, embracing their Albertan heritage by wearing cowboy hats, boots and denim.
Soon, they headed east, hitching a trailer to the back of their old Cadillac, playing gigs on their way across the Prairies and down the Canadian Shield until they finally reached the booming metropolis of Toronto. There, the 1960s folk and rock scene, which had been home to Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees such as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Zal Yanovsky, Denny Doherty and John Kay, was still in full swing, filling clubs all over Yorkville and the Yonge Street strip. It didn’t take long for the Stampeders to make a name for themselves in the big city, with their distinctly western fashion sense and catchy pop-rock tunes. Over the next few years, the band solidified its sound and its lineup, building momentum all along.
In 1971, the Stampeders finally released their debut full-length album. It was a big one. Against the Grain produced three Top 10 singles and helped to earn the band a JUNO Award for Best Group. The biggest hit off the record is still a radio staple more than 40 years later. It was during this week in 1971 that the Stampeders’ “Sweet City Woman” peaked all the way up at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“SWEET CITY WOMAN” BY THE STAMPEDERS
GALE GARNETT TOPS THE CHARTS
This was also a big week for another Canadian star. Gale Garnett was born in New Zealand, but moved to Canada as a child. She spent her formative years here, before heading south to Hollywood as an orphaned teenager. There, both her acting and singing careers took off. Her biggest hit came in 1964 when “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” climbed the charts. The tune, written by Garnett herself, soared all the way into the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, and during this week in 1964, it peaked at No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart. The song would go on to be covered by the likes of Dolly Parton, Wayne Newton, Dean Martin, Helen Reddy, and Sony and Cher. But it’s still Garnett’s version we know best. Fifty years later, she still lives in Toronto, where she enjoys a successful writing career.
“WE’LL SING THE SUNSHINE” BY GALE GARNETT
By Adam Bunch
‘YOU FORGOT IT IN PEOPLE’ ARRIVES
2001. That was the year Broken Social Scene released its debut album, Feel Good Lost. It was, for the most part, an ambient, instrumental affair. There were barely any lyrics at all. And while the band would eventually boast a huge lineup, Feel Good Lost was written and performed almost entirely by just two musicians: Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. The record earned positive reviews, but it barely hinted at what was about to happen.
At the very end of that same year, the band began to record its second album. By the time it was done, Broken Social Scene’s roster had expanded dramatically. More than a dozen musicians would play on the band’s sophomore effort. Joining Drew and Canning this time around was a long list of musicians from other groups in the Toronto music scene. There was Leslie Feist, who had played with By Divine Right and sung backing vocals for Peaches (and also appeared on that first record). Emily Haines and James Shaw from Metric. Andrew Whiteman from Apostle of Hustle and The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir. Plus, members of Stars and Do Make Say Think and Raising the Fawn… the list went on and on. The impressive new lineup meant a bigger, fuller sound, combining the first record’s atmospherics with a more accessible emphasis on vocals. It was full of songs that could fill the night air at massive outdoor festivals. And soon they would.
It was during this week in 2002 that You Forgot It In People was released. It was very good timing. The Internet was beginning to revolutionize the music industry. The rules were changing. The old, American-centric distribution and promotion networks had always been a challenge for Canadian artists who were still based at home. But now, new blogs and websites like Pitchfork were the tastemakers; they could reach across national barriers with the click of a mouse. When Pitchfork gave You Forgot It In People a 9.2 out of 10 and said it “explodes with song after song of endlessly re-playable, perfect pop,” it helped turn Broken Social Scene into an international phenomenon. It also helped to mark the beginning of a new era for Canadian music. Now, Canadian bands could stay at home while reaching a global audience more easily than ever before.
For Broken Social Scene, the change came just in time – because, as one influential blog, Tiny Mix Tapes, put it: “You Forgot It in People is one of the most incredible albums to come out of Canada in a very long time. Hell, it’s one of the best albums to come out of anywhere, really.”
“STARS AND SONS” BY BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE
By Adam Bunch
A BIG HIT FOR K.D. LANG
It was 1992 and Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee k.d. lang was at the top of her game. Her previous album – 1989’s Absolute Torch and Twang, recorded with her backing group, The Reclines – had been a huge hit. It raced up the charts and earned the singer some new hardware: she took home both the JUNO Award *and* the Grammy Award for best country female vocalist.
Now she had a new record. It was called Ingénue and it would prove to be an even bigger hit than her previous album. That year, lang’s songs were in regular rotation on radio stations all over the world. The album charted in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Japan. It was nominated for album of the year at the Grammys and won the award for best album at the JUNOs.
The biggest hit on the record would be one of the most popular singles of lang’s entire career. It would go on to inspire a Rolling Stones song and win the award for best female video at the MTV Video Music Awards. More than 20 years later, the song is still hailed as a Canadian classic. It was during this week in 1992 that “Constant Craving” peaked in the Top 40 of the Billboard charts.
“CONSTANT CRAVING” BY K.D. LANG
AN EVEN BIGGER HIT FOR PAUL ANKA
This was also a big week on the charts for Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Paul Anka. In 1959, he was still just a teenager and pretty new to the world of pop stardom. His first big hit single, “Diana,” wasn’t released until 1957. Just two years later he was already one of the biggest stars on the planet. Years before Beatlemania, Anka’s fans would shriek and scream and mob the Ottawa native wherever he went. In 1959, the 18-year-old put three different singles into the Billboard Top 10.
In July, “Lonely Boy” peaked at the very top, hitting No. 1. It ruled over the chart for four straight weeks before Elvis Presley finally knocked it out of the top slot.
Later, at the very end of the year, “It’s Time to Cry” followed that success by climbing all the way up to No. 5.
And between those two hits was “Put Your Head on My Shoulder.” During this week in 1959, it peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It would spend 11 weeks on the chart, a longer run that almost any other song released that year.
“PUT YOUR HEAD ON MY SHOULDER” BY PAUL ANKA
By Adam Bunch
ALANIS MORISSETTE’S LANDMARK ALBUM
It wasn’t her first album. That came all the way back in 1991, when Alanis Morissette was still a teenager living in Ottawa and performing as a dance-pop star. Her debut full-length album, Alanis, was only released in Canada, but the record did well here. It went platinum, and its single, “Too Hot,” climbed all the way into the Top 20 on the charts. It earned her three JUNO Award nominations, and she won the award for Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year. Her follow-up album did pretty well, too. The ballad-driven Now Is The Time went gold in Canada and put three singles into the Top 40. Alanis became known as the Canadian answer to Tiffany.
But something was missing. “There was an element of me not being who I really was,” Morissette later told Rolling Stone magazine. “The focus for me then was entertaining people and getting my feet wet in the business, it was about being young and having fun as opposed to sharing any revelations I had at the time.”
Her next album would be a very different affair. By the time it was released, Morissette had graduated from high school. She had moved from Ottawa to Toronto and then to Los Angeles, writing new songs with a new songwriting partner. She signed with Madonna’s new Maverick label. Her old records were pulled from circulation and ignored by the new publicity material. She changed her public name from just plain “Alanis” to “Alanis Morissette.” It was a dramatic break from the past: her new record would be filled with grungier, more mature and much more personal songs – and it would make her an international superstar.
Jagged Little Pill was released in the spring of 1995. It featured six smash hit singles: “You Oughta Know,” “Ironic,” “Hand in My Pocket,” “You Learn,” “Head Over Feet” and “All I Really Want.” A few of them quickly took their place among the defining songs of the entire decade. The record became a landmark album – not just for Morissette’s own career, but for the history of Canadian music and for the entire history of rock ’n’ roll in the 1990s. Jagged Little Pill would rank as the top-selling pop record of the decade, racing up the charts in countries all over the world. In Canada, it spent 24 weeks in the top spot and won five JUNO Awards.
It was during this week in 1995 that the album’s popularity hit its very peak. While Morissette appeared on the covers of both Rolling Stone and Spin magazines, Jagged Little Pill landed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
“YOU OUGHTA KNOW” BY ALANIS MORISSETTE
By Adam Bunch
THE TORONTO SOUND
It was the 1960s. Toronto was home to one of the most exciting music scenes on the planet. Every night of the week, the sounds of rock ’n’ roll, soul and folk music could be heard spilling out of the clubs in Yorkville and along the Yonge Street strip. Some of the biggest names in music called the city home over the course of that decade: early versions of The Band and Steppenwolf; solo performers such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell; and future members of The Mamas and The Papas, and The Lovin’ Spoonful – all of them future Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees.
Along with them were countless other bands, from chart-topping stars to local kids playing high school dances.
“It’s a wonder there are any kids left to listen to music in this town,” journalist Bruce Lawson wrote in the Globe and Mail, “they’re all turning to do-it-yourself rock… forming part-time groups like locusts form swarms.”
Bruce Palmer, who would eventually head to Los Angeles and become famous as the bassist for Buffalo Springfield, called Toronto “the most hard-rocking city of its time.”
The city, in fact, developed its own distinct flavour of rock ’n’ roll: what they called “The Toronto Sound.” It was a fuzzy and raucous R&B that many found hard to pin down.
“Ask them to describe it,” according to Lawson, “and they shrug their shoulders, shuffle their feet and say it’s not as relaxed as Nashville; not as up tempo as New York or Detroit; a solid natural beat, something like the Coast. But different.”
Almost everyone did agree, though, that the sound had been deeply influenced by Robbie Robertson, who made his name with his raunchy guitar work on the high school dance circuit before heading to Yonge Street and joining the band that would eventually become The Band.
It was during this week in 1966 that the Toronto Sound had its biggest showcase. For 14 straight hours, 14 of the best rock ’n’ roll bands in the city took the stage at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Ugly Ducklings. The Paupers. Luke and The Apostles. The Big Town Boys. Little Ceasar and The Consuls. Bobby Kris and The Imperials. A song from every set was broadcast to listeners on CHUM Radio, while some of the most influential record producers in the business came to see it all in person. Maybe most important of all: 16,000 screaming fans crowded the city’s biggest hockey arena – more than had come to see The Dave Clark Five. Or The Beach Boys. Or The Rolling Stones.
“NOTHIN’” BY THE UGLY NOTHING
A BIG HIT FOR ANNE MURRAY
It wasn’t Anne Murray who wrote it. It was another Canadian: Gene MacLellan, a singer-songwriter from Prince Edward Island who was a familiar face on the CBC. His work would be covered by legends such as Bing Crosby, Joan Baez and even Elvis Presley. But it was Anne Murray, who would be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1993, who made the most famous version of his most famous song. It was during this week in 1970 that “Snowbird” peaked in the Top 10 of the Billboard charts.
“SNOWBIRD” BY ANNE MURRAY
By Adam Bunch
BTO’S BIGGEST HIT
In 1974, Bachman-Turner Overdrive was at the top of its game. The band’s new album, Not Fragile, would be its third, and it would also prove to be its most popular. It was released that summer and raced up the pop charts. It would peak right at the very top, sitting at No. 1 – the only BTO album to ever climb that high.
The success of the record was due in no small part to the album’s most famous single. The song was originally written as nothing more than a joke, but it proved to be one of the band’s most popular songs ever. “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” was released during this week in September 1974, and by the time November had rolled around, the track had followed in the footsteps of the album that birthed it: hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 – the only BTO single to ever climb that high.
And the song continued to sell long after that. In 1976, it won the JUNO Award for being the best-selling single of the year. Even 40 years later, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” is still a staple of Canadian radio playlists and of sunny cottage afternoons all over the country.
“YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET” BY BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE
CANADA’S FOUNDING CHURCH ORGANS
It’s not entirely clear when the sounds of a church organ were first heard in Canada – the details have been lost to history. However, we do know that it happened a very long time before our country officially became its own nation. In fact, church organs had been filling the air of New France with religious hymns for more than 200 years before Confederation.
We know that two organs at two different churches in Quebec City were installed sometime around the middle of the 1600s, when the city was still only a few decades old. They are thought to have been the very first church organs to be played anywhere in the eastern half of North America. The British colonies wouldn’t get their first organ until the early 1700s.
But perhaps the most important early church organ was the one that arrived in Quebec during this week in 1663. It was brought to New France all the way from the old France by François de Laval, the first Roman-Catholic bishop of Quebec, who was officially made a saint by Pope Francis earlier this year. His organ replaced one of those early ones in Quebec City and was used as a template to build many more. Clergymen who had enough skill used it as a guide to make their own copies out of wood.
And so, the music spread. Even now, 350 years after the bright notes of the first pipe organ were heard in Quebec City, the instruments are still found in cities, towns and villages all over Canada. Today, you can find our country’s oldest surviving pipe organ in the village of Kingston in New Brunswick. It was built in England all the way back in 1785.