“MY” Top Five Canadian Songs for Canada Day!

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Generally, I’m not a big fan of lists, but here I go.

By no means is this a list of the “BEST” Canadian songs of all time. I intentionally skipped over the most obvious songs and people and just went with songs that meant something to me back in the day, and still tug at the heart strings. After all, music is far too subjective for little ol’ me to step forward with such a declaration. Instead I’m picking my favourite 5 songs written by Canadians. Feel free to argue or suggest others. Happy Canada Day folks!

5) “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” – The Rheostatics

I could have picked a dozen Rheostatic’s tunes and not even have scratched the surface of their repertoire. Still, how much more Canadian can you get having an awesome band cover Canadian legend Gordon Lightfoot. Let’s not even get started with the fact that Dave Bidini, (guitars & vocals) has written a book (On A Cold Road) on Canadian bands touring this great land of ours. Give it a read – and them a listen!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpiXS62EwyI

 

4) “Painted Ladies” – Ian Thomas

As a child I used to hear this song all the time and it never left me. As other people wanted to learn how to play “Heart Of Gold” as they started to learn guitar, I was trying my hand at “Painted Ladies.” There is something so ‘setting sun’ glorious and desperate about this song that catches me off guard every time I listen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgLG9MvIVhs

 

3) “Five Days In May” – Blue Rodeo

Five Days In July is definitely my favourite Blue Rodeo album, and “Five Days In May” my favourite song from them. It captures the mood of “Four Strong Wind” the desolation of “Helpless” and is just plain heartbreaking in its own right. Saw them play it at Fort York which also seems to me to be a cool ‘Canadiana’ thing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuUnApNzIz0

 

2) “Bleed A Little While Tonight” – Lowest of the Low

Not only is it a great Canadian song, but it name checks the streets of my awesome city. So while the ‘Low’ have been on and off again over the last few years, Shakespeare My Butt... still has  regular rotation on my stereo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZSNXyeLdSg

 

1) “Echo Beach” – Martha & the Muffins

Called a new wave band at the time Martha & the Muffins “Echo Beach” was anything but a genre hit. It was played on AM, FM, pop and rock stations throughout the world. This Martha & the Muffins song charted in Canada, Australia, the UK and even the US dance charts. It was a monster that was an instant classic to my 13 year old ears… and still remains so to this day. Hell, it even has a concert venue named after it on Toronto Island.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEQkIEkxm7k

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She danced like a ‘peanut’ – The Lowest of The Low – Musical Memories

She danced as if she was the missing peanut from the Christmas special. I’m imagining that “Linus & Lucy” is playing each time I see this dance.

Bouncing in spot with her hands in a cute chipmunk like groove that only works for her and it is a sheer joy to see. It’s a totally platonic friendship that means the world to me… her pure enjoyment of life mixed with a look that says “screw with me and you die” has me in awe. She is one of a very small group who can drag this sad “Charlie Brown” out and get him to laugh in a most animated way.

Except this isn’t a cartoon and only 15 people are in attendance as The Lowest of the Low play their songs as if to thousands. The lack of people only serves to give the lucky few more room to move… and they all do. The band seems delighted that everyone is having a great time, and so they are having a blast. At the end of the night I walk over to the ‘merch booth’ where the only thing being sold is the band’s debut Shakespeare… My Butt and slap my fifteen dollars on the table. The patrons are hanging out with ‘the Low’ and there are smiles all around.

low

http://www.maplemusic.com/product.asp?dept%5Fid=278&pf%5Fid=275%2D50&lang=EN

Seventeen songs play out the stereo. Seventeen songs play from my Walkman. Seventeen songs become part of the soundtrack of what turns into a pretty good summer. And as the fall semester begins I’m seeing the same band, at the same venue, playing the same songs, with the same power, but this time the Trasheteria is at capacity. She still stands out to me. In a sea of people who do the Simpson’s music festival dance (“Homerpalooza”), she is still a peanut.

Only difference is, this time we know all the words, and a group of us, a circle of friends, dance and sing together as “Rosy and Grey” and “Bleed A Little While Tonight” now take on meanings.

As winter begins, there are more shows, more splendid times with friends. One night you’re catching the Rheostatics another it’s Weeping Tile, and then you drive to Toronto to catch Sugar. After all, it’s the early 90’s, and there is always some cool band around to see. Still, even with all these shows and all these bands, The Lowest of the Low gets circled on the calendar in red marker.

Which makes it all the weirder as that less than a year from that first show I saw, I’m standing at the Ontario Place forum with thousands of people watching the Lowest of the Low play. However, this time it is different. The Edgefest crowd is having a good time, but she has stopped dancing, and our group of friends have begun to stare in quiet disbelief. Ron Hawkins, the Lowest of the Low’s main songwriter, singer and rhythm guitarist has begun to smash his guitar in angry spectacle. Sure, I’ve seen musicians smash instruments as part of the ‘rich rebel’ – ‘wow, did you see that’ theatrical display. Classic rock is full of that crap, but this was different… it was real… and it must have been expensive. This wasn’t some wealthy ‘rock star’ smashing his guitar. This was Ron Hawkins, who I’m guessing was just finally able to pay bills with their new found regional success.

When I asked the bands lead guitarist Stephen Stanley about it just a few days later at the Hillside Music Festival in Guelph, he kinda smirked, looked serious and hinted that I should “ask Ron”. Except his tone was saying that the last thing I should do was “ask Ron.”

What I did get is that a new album was imminent. The guys were excited as it was being produced by Don Smith who had worked with 54-40, Cracker and The Rolling Stones. In fact, it looked like everything was in place for this band to be HUGE! Of course, the idea of this is awesome; the band consisted of four great guys who had been working their asses off to get to this point.

The thing is, it was different that night at Hillside. There was no friend dancing to my imaginary “Linus & Lucy”, and the audience was more jocular than enthusiastic. The band seemed almost hesitant with material that they had played hundreds of times. It looked like colour had been bled from them and nothing remained but black and white stills with great music in the background.

Another fall semester began and ‘the Low’ had a show scheduled at the university. The new album Hallucigenia was supposed to be in the stores soon, and tickets for the concert were selling fast. My whole circle of friends would be there, either working or singing along. It was going to be a big party, and maybe… just maybe, our enthusiasm would reach the band and the colour would come back.

http://www.amazon.ca/Hallucigenia-Lowest-Low/dp/B00005B7XF/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1424024680&sr=1-2&keywords=lowest+of+the+low

 

It never happened.

The show was cancelled, the band had broken up, and I was left kinda shuffling my feet along the ground. It felt like a good friend had moved to another continent without so much as a “see ya later.” Other bands, other friends, had moved in and taken memorable places, but well, it just wasn’t the same.

The band would reunite a couple times over the years, but tickets would sell so quick, the show would be sold out the very moment I heard about it.

A couple years back I was in my favorite record store and spotted Shakespeare… My Butt on display in vinyl. The plastic hit the table and I forget how much I paid, but it did take me exactly where I wanted to be. As it spun on the turntable I lay upon my couch eyes closed and I could see, in perfect colour, a girl dancing like a ‘peanut’, a group of friends having a great time, and a band playing to a few people as if it was to thousands.

Thank You Lowest Of The Low