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 27 Dalbello

Dalbello - Gonna Get Close to You, 1984

'I'm like a hungry criminal. And your protection is minimal, so minimal...' How could I have forgotten this weird, WEIRD song? Here Dalbello is criminally obsessed with her transvestite neighbour, resulting in a several murder attempts and some wanton shoe clutching - but I confess that I'm most disturbed by that phallic-looking lava lamp on the window sill. How cool is Lisa Dalbello? Well, she made up a fake male producer to fool her record company while taking charge of her album production herself, she's appeared in such disparate places as the chorus of Tears Are Not Enough and the soundtrack for 9 1/2 Weeks, and she started her musical career at Band Camp (well, no, it was a programme for gifted teen musicians, but it was a summer camp). And there's just something about those Romulan eyebrows... This song was covered by Queensryche in 1986, although personally I don't think it works with a fella singing. I love the shifts here from very quiet and crazy to very loud and crazy - in fact I just may have found my new PMS anthem. Thank you, Lisa D.!


CND Song 28 Platinum Blonde

Platinum Blonde - Situation Critical, 1985

Here's what's great about these bands: they were ours. You could love Wham! or Spandau Ballet all you wanted - it wasn't likely that they were ever going to love you back. But Platinum Blonde would play your town, even if it was Kentville, Nova Scotia (population 6,094). In 1984 they did just that, and my colleague Lisa (Gillis) North of Bridgetown, N.S. (pop 949) was there to see it.

Lisa writes:

"It was the summer of '84, and excitement of all excitement, Platinum Blonde announced a concert date at the Kentville Arena! I really don't know how we ever managed to find out news like this back in the day with no internet, Facebook or Twitter...amazing, eh? I was 14 and had never been to a concert – but I knew I just had to get there to see the fabulously blonde, glam rocking trio. My best friend and I managed to scheme her mother into driving us to Kentville for the show. So with our hair poufed up high and our tickets in hand (including a ticket for Tracey's mother, because that IS how we all made it into our first concert, right?), off we set. Was it all we imagined it would be? Yes! Neon bright flood lights, smoke machine effects – belting out the words to "Doesn't Really Matter", "Standing in the Dark", and "Sad Sad Rain" (sadly this show pre-dated "Situation Critical"). Just thinking about it now, I can picture my awkward, 14-year-old, rocking self and laugh because it feels like just yesterday...ah, the memories of the 80s!"

Here you go, Lisa! With shirtless action, and footage of the lads being mobbed by reporters from the Kentville Register - or is that you with the camera?


CND Song 29 Minutes from Downtown

Minutes from Downtown - Wrapped in Velvet, 1983

'So here I am wrapped in velvet - willing to forget (forever!)' Finally! After days of posting stuff I just sort of liked or liked while smirking, I had a look for a vaguely remembered tune from Junior High and...damn! I can not stop playing this song! No cheese. No gimmicks. Just bright, sweet pop. I love you, Minutes from Downtown, whoever the hell you are. And I remembered the song well once I'd listened to it again, from winter mornings getting ready for school, frost on the windows and this on the clock radio. I thought it was all very romantic - without having a clear idea of what romance actually was. Apparently it involves big reconciliation scenes and people wrapping themselves in velvet. I'd only just got over the mind-blowing concept that not all boys were icky little monsters oozing slime and revelling in their own filth, so this was pretty astounding. Oh, and it turned out I was right about the filth part all along, but you can't have everything. 


CND Song 30 Gowan

Gowan - A Criminal Mind, 1985 (Toronto, Ontario)

'I stand accused before you. I have no tears to cry...' Born in Scotland, Gowan moved to Canada as a child and later became the man you see here - theatrical performances, a nice sense of melody under all the prog-rock trappings, big sharp shoulder pads and a mullet that was widely considered to be among the decade's most memorable. He is now lead singer of the most recent version of Styx. Here, in his first video, the big G's marketers seem to have reacted to his (overly) dramatic style by pushing it further and making him into a living cartoon. It works - but don't forget that Larry Gowan wrote this song about actual career criminals and not comic book villains, and I get the feeling he meant every word.

My Gowan problem...click to read on...


CND Song 31 Zappacosta

Zappacosta - We Should Be Lovers, 1984

'We should be lo-vers! Caring for each o-ther!' Oh, Alfie Zappacosta, you heartless man! Are you really going to let those women wrestle in Jello for your love while you put the moves on some heavily made-up, turbanned, 80s femme fatale in the audience? For shame. I'll admit that until recently I'd forgotten that Zappacosta existed, but he had a string of hits in the early 80s, enough to put him in the chorus of Tears Are Not Enough, the country's big charity single, and later in the decade he was included on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack with his song Overload (heard it for the first time  today - apparently I am the only woman on earth who's never seen the film). Born in Italy, Alfie Zappacosta made Canada his home and became part of our cultural musical mosaic, much like his similarly one-named colleague Gowan of Scotland. Glad the country could provide fertile soil for such talent to flourish. I'm also a bit surprised by just how passionate Zappa is about his message of peace in the singing portion of this entertainment spectacle - perhaps inside he's wracked with guilt over his cruel philandering. Why break a Jello wrestler's heart, Zappa? Why?


CND Song 32 Stompin' Tom and SCTV

Stompin' Tom Connors and SCTV - To It and At It, 1974, 1982

'There's a rainbow in Toronto, where the Maritimers are bold...' - Stompin' Tom

'Garth: Ah, Gord, you're gonna love it in Toronto. They got roads and everything there! All kinds of roads!   Gord: And jobs too?   Garth: Lots of jobs! Doctorin' jobs and lawyerin' jobs. Jobs for me and you!' - SCTV, 'Garth and Gord and Fiona and Alice'

Okay, I'll admit Stompin' Tom didn't record this anywhere near the 80s, but I wanted to get the great man on here somehow. And of course I will always associate 'To It and At It' with SCTV's 1982 parody of the landmark Canadian film Goin' Down the Road ('Garth and Gord and Fiona and Alice'). The skit lived on in reruns for the rest of the decade and beyond, and I'm betting there are thousands of Maritimers of a certain age who know the opening by heart. In fact, the first time I walked down Yonge Street (and the second, third, fourth...) I found myself singing the rock version of 'To It and At It' which plays over most of Part Two of this epic (click here), to the annoyance of my Toronto friends. My favourite bit of this? John Candy unwrapping his lunch, a big smelly fish, and taking an enthusiastic chomp as the two bold Maritimers follow the road to the big city.

Here's Stompin' Tom:

 And John Candy, Joe Flaherty, and the gang:


CND Song 33 The Box

The Box - L'Affaire Dumoutier (Say to Me), 1985 (Montreal, Quebec)

'The old man had discovered, to his absolute dismay, the dislocated body of Elisabeth Dumoutier...' One of the strangest Canadian hit singles I can remember. What is 'L'Affaire Dumoutier', exactly? A rap? A short film? An excuse for lead singer Jean-Marc Pisapia (once a member of Men Without Hats) to stand around in a trench coat looking glum and thoughtful? Mostly spoken in English and French, this song packs an hour's worth of cop show plot into four minutes. I'd happily watch it as a series, especially with unsmiling Detective Jean-Marc in the lead. The white handkerchief wave dismissing the crime scene photographers, the cigarette thrown away at exactly the right moment, the barn cat he ends up holding while pondering his next move...so cool. I'm also fond of the way the psychiatrist mildly wipes flung spittle from his glasses every time someone yells at him, and the fact that there's an accordion player at Elisabeth's last dance. But help me out here, Francophones. Jean-Marc's not really calling the snarky journalist's paper a 'rag' is he? Were The Box actually swearing on Muchmusic all through the spring of 1985? You got away with it, guys. Neat.



CND Song 34 Northern Lights

Northern Lights - Tears Are Not Enough, 1985

'Let's show them Canada still cares!' Watching this, from a continent away and a distance of almost thirty years, I can't help getting sentimental. Look at them all! I'll admit it's weird seeing Zappacosta singing shoulder to shoulder with Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, and I don't know what to think of the fact that producer David Foster originally wrote this for the opening of St Elmo's Fire, but still. I'm wallowing in nostalgia here.

So today I'll hand this one over to a man who doesn't do sentimental, my colleague Brendan Richardson. Brendan reports:

"Contemporary Canucks will try to fill your head with notions that the Canadian identity is tied to opaque concepts like diversity, drinking Tim Horton's coffee or making self-aggrandizing beer commercials. It's not. If you want to understand what it truly feels like to be Canadian, to feel like an afterthought in a country founded on afterthoughts, watch the African relief supergroup anthems of the mid-80s: "Do They Know It's Christmas", "We Are the World", and then "Tears Are Not Enough". This is what it really feels like to be Canadian, when the mortifying moments of mimicry and mediocrity sink in: the cable access production values, the hesitating pantsuits, the one niggling detail that 90% of the proud Canadians featured in the video haven't actually lived in the country since making it big in the States and never will again. Not with our exorbitant tax rates that go towards things like...foreign aid to Africa. The one consolation? The moustaches of our African-Relief-Supergroups were, at the time, judged marginally superior to the East German African-Relief-Supergroups of the same era. Suck it, Deutsche Demokratische Republik! We've got you beaten in more than just brainwashing beer commercials!"




CND Song 35 Toronto


Here we go! Thirty-five Canadian 80s songs, counting down to Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World's publication day in Canada on 7 May. Will the songs be in any particular order? No! Will I be posting the good stuff, the cheese, the sentimental memory triggers? Yes! Will I be taking requests and guest-post submissions? Of course! Will there be some repeats from 65 80s Songs? Um...yeah. But no matter! Come with me, my maple syrup guzzling, plaid-draped countrymen and women, down this bumpy, potholed memory lane lined with trees growing too close to the sides and scraping your car windows. Non-Canadians, just consider this a learning experience, though you may learn far, far more than you ever wanted to. 

Toronto - Your Daddy Don't Know, 1982 (Toronto, Ontario)

'Making your move, you come down as fast as lightning...' Many of us don't remember that in the early years the 80s were really just the 70s with different hairstyles, and not everyone was New Wave. (Check out the moustache on that drummer.) Toronto had a few hit albums in Canada before they broke up in 1985, and are best known for this song, though they recorded a number called 'What About Love' which they opted not to include on an album and...I'm sure no one's regretting that decision now. I first heard 'Your Daddy Don't Know' on a K-Tel compilation (Blast Off). I loved it then and I love it now. Please enjoy the glorious production values, and if you're in a contemporary mood, here's a link to the New Pornographers with the same song, over thirty years later.



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