35 Canadian 80s Songs

My second 80s countdown, to Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World's Canadian release date of May 7, 2013. All Canadian, all the time. Sample it if you dare.

CND Song 14 Blue Rodeo

Blue Rodeo - Try, 1987 (Toronto, Ontario)

'Don't tell me I'm wrong, cause I've been watching every move that you make...' Looks like it's Ballad Week here on 35 Canadian 80s Songs, though this one's a lot more easy-going than yesterday's offering. Strangely, although this is a perfect romantic slow-dance number, I most strongly associate 'Try' with failing Driver's Ed in high school. I spent hours in the car with various teachers throughout the winter and spring of '87, careening along the highway, trying to steer clear of telephone poles, with this on the radio. And, yes, I tried. And failed. But Blue Rodeo did not - they became one of Canada's most successful country-rock bands, and I have it on good authority that they are still going strong, still relevant, and that Jim Cuddy is still hot. As a side note, you'll notice that in the video the female love interest decides to leave the hero just after a short scene in the bathroom, during which a toilet is clearly visible. A toilet...with the seat up. Take heed, gentlemen! And mend your ways.


CND Song 15 Luba

Luba - Every Time I See Your Picture, 1982 (Montreal, Quebec)

'These images start taking their toll on me - I feel his memory haunting me time and again, I feel weak...' Lubomira Kowalchyk! A tiny little Ukrainian-Canadian woman with an enormous voice, and, going on this song alone, a towering sense of operatic drama. Though to be fair, this is not 'Total Eclipse' - the song's about Luba's grief over the death of her father, and at these times it often seems like no drama could ever be big enough. When I was thirteen I bought the 45 single, exactly as it appears in this homemade video someone's been kind enough to post on Youtube, and I'd listen to 'Every Time I See Your Picture' in my room with my humungous, clunky headphones on and get all teary-eyed. And, um, confession time: the same thing happened a few minutes ago watching this again, minus the headphones. What can I say? I'm fond of big drama. For a slightly more easy-going version, I found a TV performance of unknown vintage here. Have a listen.



CND Song 16 Corey Hart

Corey Hart - Never Surrender, 1985 (Montreal, Quebec)

'So if you're lost and on your own, you can never surrender!' Corey Hart, with one of the biggest Canadian songs of 1985 - it even cracked the U.S. Top 40 and ended up at number three. If I did a word association game with the name 'Corey Hart' I'd probably come out with something like 'sunglasses', 'hair gel', or 'pout', but what I tend to forget is that he's actually a very good singer. (And freakin' gorgeous, which always helps.) Of course there's a chance that this is lip-synched, like most TV performances in the 80s, but I really don't want to believe that of Corey. I remember seeing him in concert at the Halifax Metro Centre back when I was fourteen. He closed with 'Never Surrender' and did the same air-punching thing that you see in this performance. We all saluted him right back, singing along passionately. Yes, Corey, we will never surrender, we resolved, as we walked to our parents' cars in the late springtime light, wearing our finest white-on-flourescent gear, getting ready for the long drive home. Never, never.


CND Song 17 Haywire

Haywire - Thinking About the Years, 1988 (Charlottetown, P.E.I.)

'Then a voice - brought us all to tears! Together! Oh, for the last time...' Feel like having a sentimental Sunday? This single, also known as 'the graduation song', was released just a few weeks before my own high school grad and caused no end of sighing and tears whenever it was played - I still distinctly remember a group of girls at a pre-grad party, swaying and sobbing with their arms around each other, with this on the tape player. I'd get teary-eyed listening to it too. Yes, even grouchy, cynical, mean old me. My sister had the tape and would play the song for me sometimes to mark the occasion of my graduating and leaving home. She also had her own version, 'Thinking About My Beer', which she'd sing in tones of soulful drama, complete with fake sobs. The memory always makes me smile. My mother lives in Charlottetown and runs into members of the band from time to time - all very nice people, she tells me. Thanks for my graduation song, guys.


CND Song 18 Skinny Puppy

Skinny Puppy - Smothered Hope, 1984 (Vancouver, B.C.)

As promised, Kristin Amirault is here to give an account of her first ever concert-going experience: Skinny Puppy at the Pub Flamingo in Halifax, a very different night out from Marni's in CND Song 20. Take it away, Kristin!

"The concert was Skinny Puppy at the Club Flamingo on Gottingen St, Halifax,  Friday May 29, 7:30pm. That is what the remainder of my ticket stub says.  It was 1987.  I was 15, shy, naive, and had just begun exploring music beyond Top 40. My friend's father, our Junior High Vice Principal, drove eight of us from Yarmouth to Halifax, and back. He did not attend the show. We tried our best to be and look as cool as the Halifax kids, but I don't think we pulled it off. Waiting for the band to start, we were approached by a girl asking if we had any papers. Clueless, we asked, "What kind of papers?" 

And then there was the show. It was loud, dark, and smokey, and there was blood, lots and lots of blood. The only song I remember was 'Smothered Hope'. It was awesome to hear live and feel the bass pounding in my chest. Most of the night I was unsure of what I was seeing or what to think, especially when a bloody Nivek Oger appeared to be driving a nail into his own skull. And I  was a little nervous when a soldier came on stage, and was shot or shot someone else, I can't really remember which. I wasn't entirely sure what was real. That was my first concert, surreal and thrilling, leaving the eight of us with plenty to talk about on the 3 1/2 hour drive home."

And here are the lads themselves with this jolly romp. Can you believe this started as a side project for Images in Vogue?

 IMG 0894


CND Song(s) 19 Chilliwack and April WIne

Chilliwack - My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone), 1981 (Vancouver, B.C.)

...and April Wine, Just Between You and Me, 1981 (Halifax, N.S.)

'My girl, she was the world to me! She's gone, away across the sea. My girl is just a memory...'

'Just between you and me! Baby, I know our love will be...'

I'm proud and, well, just a little bit terrified to present a double-bill today: shaggy-haired coast to coast passion from 1981, featuring Chilliwack of Vancouver (not of Chilliwack, strangely enough) and April Wine of my beloved Halifax. This is where I begin to feel the awesome responsibility of my task here on 35 Canadian 80s songs - sure I can post this stuff, but what about the poor souls idly clicking on the site, suddenly caught in this torrent of emotion? Bill Henderson's searing lament for his lost love coupled with April Wine's tender fireside ballad...I see hot times ahead for anyone who survives today's offering.

Here's Chilliwack...

 ...and here's April Wine.



CND Song 20 Deja Voodoo

Deja Voodoo - Cheese and Crackers, 1988 (Montreal, Quebec)

If you're looking for alternative Canadian 80s, the Amirault sisters of Yarmouth are the ones to ask. Here Marni shares her story of seeing Montreal's loveably odd Deja Voodoo in Halifax, while Kristin has promised to stop by on Saturday with a very different tale. Take it away, Marni!

'Cheese and crackers, anyone? I said "No," cause I don't like 'em. That's why I said "No!"'  

"For two nights in the late 1980s, Deja Voodoo played the only place to see alternative music in Halifax: the Pub Flamingo. I remember watching this extremely tall, very thin man with glasses, dressed in a suit, mingling with the Haligonians. (Yes, in those days, the Halifax scene really was that small that you'd notice someone 'new'.) I remember the giant rubber spider Gerard was carrying around. The next night, it was a huge rubber bat (the kind with wings). When they took the stage, they belted out a fun mix of garage-rock, alt country (before it existed) and the form of rockabilly they aptly termed 'sludgabilly'. Gerard slapped out songs on his 4-string guitar, while Tony sat at his drum kit, positioned at the back of the stage and yelled something every once in awhile - to the audience, to Gerard, I can't be sure. One thing I do remember though, is thinking there must have been something special happening in Montreal. It was all very cool. My sister bought a copy of Swamp of Love; I'm pretty sure we wore out the grooves of that record."

Great, weird song! Here it is. Click here for the soulful scratch of vinyl.





CND Song 21 The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness - I'm an Adult, Now, 1986 (Toronto, Ontario)

Guest post! My distinguished colleague and self-professed nerk, Leigha Worth, has this to say about TPOH:

"'I don't hate my parents, I don't get drunk just to spite them. I've got my own reasons to drink now, I think I'll call my dad up and invite him.' Back in their heyday, I was crazy about TPOH. I loved their songs' offbeat lyrics and their blending of two seemingly disparate sounds: 70's rock and 80's pop. Of course, my crush on Moe Berg didn't hurt. His bookish anti-machismo charm and wry smile set my heart aflutter. He was that goofy and endearing Canadian guy who had a secret identity as an irreverent guitar-toting bad boy...swoon! Kind of weird that as a teen I loved a song about being an adult but maybe I loved it because it made me feel smug. It was about crap that wasn't even on my radar and I was damn happy about that. Of course, I got older and now this is my life:

'Gotta get up and take on that world, when you're an adult, it's not cliche, it's the truth. 'Cause I'm an adult now, I'm an adult now, I've got the problems of an adult on my head and on my shoulders, I am an adult now.'

Christ, Moe...could you have given us a heads up? Oh wait...you did. NVM."

Thanks, Leigha! I'm with you on the swooning. Here's a clip someone appears to have taped off the TV - for nostalgia's sake I left in Muchmusic Veejay Erica Ehm's piercing and insightful commentary. She stops talking about 45 seconds in if you'd like to skip ahead.


CND Song 22 Mitsou

Mitsou - Bye-bye, Mon Cowboy, 1988 (Montreal, Quebec)

'Bye-bye, mon cowboy! Bye-bye, mon rodeo...' Mitsou's been called 'Canada's answer to Madonna' - not that she was a pop cultural giant whose songs and image dominated the media and airwaves for a decade - I think it's because she was blonde, wore a black bra, and had a few dance hits. I never had much love for Mitsou back in the day, being a very earnest young feminist who disapproved of sexy-girl bimbo singers, but now I'm looking at this with a certain indulgence. Mitsou was born in 1970, which means she was barely eighteen when 'Cowboy' was released, the same age I was while watching the video on Muchmusic, and later seeing my friends attempting to sing along in dance clubs with random phrases from French class. ('Oh, là, là, là, quel temps fait-il?') Looking at this now, I just see a cute young girl showing off, poised to become the next big thing. Did she get there? Not quite, which makes that sassy confidence all the more endearing.

Want to sing along with Mitsou? Click 'read more' for full lyrics and translation, brought to you by my hardworking colleauge Leigha Worth.


CND Song 23 Honeymoon Suite

Honeymoon Suite - New Girl Now, 1984 (Niagra Falls, Ontario)

'I don't want you on the phone. Don't you play good, girl, with me. Why must I always say it again...' This takes me back - to the 80s, of course, but also to the last days of 2005, when I was in a bar in Charlottetown, P.E.I. with my sister. We'd walked past the band and were playing pool upstairs. Then I heard them play a Honeymoon Suite song. 'Oh, trying to be retro,' I thought, 'whoever they are.' But a few minutes later, there was another one. Who would play two Honeymoon Suite songs in a night? Honeymoon Suite, that's who! I raced downstairs and spent the rest of the night singing along. The lads were in great form, even with the drunk guy near the bar who kept bawling out a request for 'Wave Babies' every time a song ended. 'New Girl Now' was Honeymoon Suite's first and biggest hit. Watching this today, what part really stands out? Telephones! The rejected girlfriend's calling from an actual payphone, not a teeny cell, and her call comes to callous Johnnie Dee on a heavy rotary dial number, something that you can throw on the floor and smash, just before relaxing into that bed of nails. Good times.


CND Song(s) 24 Kim Mitchell

Kim Mitchell - Go For a Soda, 1985 (Sarnia, Ontario)

'Might as well go for a soda and nobody hurt, and nobody cry! Might as well go for a soda and nobody drown, and nobody die...' Thank you, Mr Mitchell. Revisiting this song and video was one of the most pleasantly daft experiences I've ever had - in fact I could happily keep hitting 'replay' all day. There is something fascinating about watching this goofy slacker kid watching tiny Kim Mitchells prancing out of his TV and then taking over his fridge, offering soda. Was this where Hideo Nakata got the idea for that scene in The Ring? I remember 'Go For a Soda' was all over the radio in '85, but for some reason I thought it was an oldy from the 70s getting a lot of replay. Looks like I was wrong, but no big deal. Might as well go for a soda.

...and Patio Lanterns, 1986

If 'Go for a Soda' was Kim's best known song internationally, this was his biggest Canadian hit. I couldn't make up my mind between the two, and my colleague Leigha Worth had some interesting insights, so you're getting both. (The video's unavailable to me here in Ireland - apologies).

Leigha writes:

"Sarnia Ontario's prodigal son, Kim Mitchell, sang Canada's most popular song of 1986: 'Patio Lanterns'. At that point, I was a miserable little shite wallowing knee deep in teen misery so this sweetly upbeat song wasn't really my cup of tea but I was strangely obsessed with it anyway. Although "Patio Lanterns" made me groan, I wanted to live it and I often imagined myself at that party with some boy trying to get up the courage to kiss me too."

Ah, youth. 'Patio Lanterns' also appears in Chapter 7 of Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World, available in fine book stores in Canada in...let's see...24 days.


CND Song 25 The Kids in the Hall

The Kids in the Hall - Terriers, 1989

'Terriers are my very favourite breed. They're cute and cuddly, easy dogs to feed...' The Kids in the Hall first aired in 1988 and was a big part of my high school and college years - easily the coolest show on CBC at that time, not that the competition was particularly fierce. You might remember that every so often Bruce McCulloch would break away from the rest of the cast for a monologue, or, even better, a song, like The Daves I Know, or this one. I confess that I'm not a hundred percent sure that 'Terriers' aired in 1989 - I hope it did, or I'm cheating here. I picked it over 'Daves' for several reasons. It has the obligatory Canadian 'verse in French' segment (see 'Tears Are Not Enough'), I also love it when Dave tells the bikini girls to leave because of sexism, and though terriers may not be my number one favourite breed of dog, they're right up there. My house was full of them growing up. Okay, we had two, but they filled the place pretty handy.


CND Song(s) 26 Loverboy and Streetheart

Loverboy - Turn Me Loose, 1981 (Calgary, Alberta)

'I'm here to please, I'm even on my knees, making love to whoever I please...' Okay, I was going to wait to unleash Loverboy until we were closer to the top ten, seeing as they were one of Canada's international 80s success stories. Then I watched this video again and...who could wait?? The headband! The leather pants! The sobbing faces! The drummer! The vertiginous and thrilling glimpses of Mike Reno's hairy belly-button! It would be a crime to keep this to myself. I remember even as a kid I thought the rhymes here were lazy (please and please are rhymed, as are way and way) and I think I've finally found a worse lyricist than Jon Bon Jovi ('I was born to run, I was born to dream - the craziest boy you ever seen...'), but still. Some dark, primal part of me really, really wants to grab a microphone and yodel this in some nameless, smoky karaoke joint. There's just something irresistable about Loverboy. 

...and Streetheart - One More Time, 1982 (Regina, Saskatchewan)

Bonus song today! I realised I'm going to run out of room on this countdown faster than I'd thought, and didn't feel right about leaving out Streetheart. This song appeared on one of my K-Tel collections (Chart Action?) and I used to play it at the age of twelve or so, feeling tough but wondering what the singer meant by 'I tried to score with the Sally next door'. I didn't think they were playing hockey, but... 


Page 2 of 3

Get your copy of Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World here

...in Ireland and the UK 

51U3E6BPgnL  SL500 AA300  Cinnamon Toast pb cover low res

In the U.S.A.

In Canada...or try here. Or go independent.

"...astonishingly good....a juicy coming-of-age story...also an important read." The Globe and Mail

"...poignant...heart-wrenching. This stunning debut will surely appeal to both teenage readers and adults." Quill & Quire, starred review

"Witty, devastating, with a melancholy humour..." Sunday Business Post

"...page-turning, top drawer stuff..." BGE Book Club

"...warm, witty, heartfelt and utterly engaging..." The Irish News

"A stunning debut. I loved it." The Irish Examiner