By: Myles Herod July 1st, 2013
One thing we can absolutely be proud of this Canada Day is how amazing our music is (and has been, over the years). So today, the contributors of Toronto Music Scene have banded together to divulge their favourite Canadian songs, a play-list that has fundamentally shaped not only themselves, but the musical landscape of the Great White North and beyond. Warning: this list is BTO and Nickelback free!
“Powderfinger” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Hilary Johnston)
There are so many reasons why this song is a classic: the mysterious narrative lyrics, Neil’s harrowing guitar solos, the anthem-like chorus and the fact that it appeals to fans new and old. “Powderfinger” is spooky, rough and somehow beautiful at the same time.
The last time I listened to this song, I heard my own voice shouting the lyrics over Neil’s distinctive wail, creating a duet that echoed through the mountains of Chilliwack, BC. The glory of “look out mama, there’s a white boat comin’ up the river” emanated through the seductive nature that surrounded me. I am passionate about a lot of Canadian music but I am hard-pressed to find another tune that can induce that feeling.
“If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot (Adrian J. Miller)
Inspired by his divorce, Gordon Lightfoot wrote this solemn song in 1970, one about heartache and lamentation. The tender lyrics reflect the songwriting of the period, with Lightfoot’s voice remaining genuine and heartfelt. There is pride in knowing that it was a man from Orillia, Ontario who wrote songs that Bob Dylan would wish to last forever.
“If You Could Read My Mind” was Lightfoot’s first hit on the American Billboard Magazine Chart, and thanks to Canadian Content regulations – is still played on local oldies stations. My decision in choosing this song was simple. Although some may call it boring; it is an iconic melody that will far outplay many of the contemporary mainstream acts that have come from within a two hour drive of Toronto in the last 10 years.
“These Days Are Old” by Spookey Ruben (Myles Herod)
What the hell is Spookey Ruben? Well, if you’re the kind of person looking for something innovative and avant garde on this glorious Canada Day, “These Days Are Old” is the perfect cocktail.
Released in 1995 by the Canadian musician, and experimental filmmaker (real name: Alan Deil), this bizzaro slice of loopy yodelling and eccentric pop is an infectious scream from the Canadian underground.
Perhaps too bold and unclassifiable for it’s time, the song fits as a prophetic blue-print to today’s Canadian idosyncratic rockers, while at the same time retaining its eclectic, goofy and strangely ethic mystique.
Certainly a unique piece onto itself, its accompanying video remains equally mind-bending. Cast by the limitations of dismal home video equipment and gloomy Canadian weather, it’s off-the-wall whimsy of broken glass and face plants evokes the sensation of watching old YTV shows whilst on a psychedelic stimulant.
“A Man Needs a Maid” by Neil Young (Sean Carsley)
I heard this song as a child and I spent years trying to find out what it was.
The track opens within the simplicity of Neil playing a baby grand piano and singing solo until the first verse. There the London Symphony Orchestra enter, backing him with an almost subdued determination. It’s not until the second verse do you “feel” the orchestra, as they crescendo and punch right into the song, returning it home with a great deal of somberness. The track is beautiful and haunting, screaming self-imposed loneliness like nothing before.
Is the interpretation of “A Man Needs A Maid” that life is in shambles after love has failed? The maid represents a female who can be with the man as a companion but offers no fear of commitment. Truthfully, all I know is after that, I was hooked on Neil.