Thursday, March 31, 2011

Juno Awards: Top 40 songs about Canada - Missed one - Stan Rogers - Northwest Passage

The Juno Awards celebrate their 40th anniversary this week in Toronto, so here’s a Top 40 list of songs by Canadians that reference the country. The first 25 or 30 songs are pretty much off the top of my head, which might explain the questionable ordering (that and some differences in taste!). Debate welcome.
1. Helpless – Neil Young (There is a town in north Ontario …) [Cool duet with Bruce above]
2. It Hasn’t Hit Me Yet – Blue Rodeo (Snow falling in the middle of Lake Ontario)
3. Wheat Kings – The Tragically Hip (Sundown in the Paris of the Prairies)
4. Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot (when the Gales of November came slashin’)
5. Coyote  Joni Mitchell (On the road to Baljennie near my old home town)
6. Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) – Arcade Fire (Growin’ up in some strange storm, nobody’s cold, nobody’s warm)
7. Acadian Driftwood – The Band (Canadian cold front movin’ in)
8. Lakeside Park – Rush (Everyone would gather on the twenty-fourth of May sitting in the sand to watch the fireworks display.)
9. The Night Paddy Murphy Died – Great Big Sea (They stopped the hearse on George Street outside Sundance Saloon)
10. Oh … Canada – Classified (I know where I’m from and I told ya before North of America hard to ignore)
11. Your Ex-Lover Is Dead – Stars (Captured a taxi despite all the rain we drove in silence across Pont Champlain)
12. Spoonful of Sugar – Matt Mays & El Torpedo (Spoonful of sugar in Montreal city)
13. Hard Road – Sam Roberts (And her soft brown hair is as long as the Canadian highway)
14. My Old Apartment – Barenaked Ladies (We bought an old house on the Danforth)
15. Spadina Bus – The Shuffle Demons (Well, I start to cuss on the Wellesley bus and you can’t go far on the College Street car you know the Yonge Street train is a real pain and the LRT—that’s not for me)
16. Sudbury Saturday Night – Stompin’ Tom (The girls are out to Bingo and the boys are getting’ stinko)
17. Bobcaygeon – The Hip (it was in Bobcaygeon I saw the constellations reveal themselves one star at a time)
18. Three Pistols – The Hip (Tom Thomson came paddling past)
19. English Bay – Blue Rodeo (I listen to the rain and the sounds of the passin’ cars and the waves on English Bay)
20. City of Lakes – Matt Mays & El Torpedo (And at the end of the day I will return to the city of lakes where the real people roam close to where all the real waves break)
21. Comin’ Home – City and Colour (I’ve been through Nova Scotia, Sydney to Halifax I’ll never take any pictures cause I know I’ll just be right back)
22. The River – Joni Mitchell (I wish I had a river I could skate away on)
23. Weakerthans – One Great City (I hate Winnipeg)
24. The Ballad of Wendel Clark Parts 1 & 2 – The Rheostatics (Wendel was a man with a stick in his hands he learned how to play in Kelvington S.A.S.K.)
25. Montreal – Blue Rodeo (We met in Montreal far from the crime)
26. 38 Years Old – The Hip again (Twelve men broke free in ’73 from Millhaven maximum security)
27. Evangeline – The Band (Evangeline, from the Maritimes was slowly going insane.)
28. Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon – The Guess Who (Moose Jaw saw a few)
29. Hockey Skates – Kathleen Edwards (Going down in the same old town down the same street to the same bar)
30. Canadian Railroad Trilogy – Gordon Lightfoot (For there was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run when the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun)
31. Miles from Our Home – Cowboy Junkies (The moon hangs like a question mark, pale as milk, bold as a promise)
32. Northern Touch – Rascalz (yes from the northwest and the t-dot, o-dizot check)
33. Escarpment Blues – Sarah Harmer (We’ll keep driving on the Blind Line if we don’t know where we want to go)
34. The Old Sod – Spirt of the West (Canada’s been good to us we’ve a living and a home. We’ve all got central heating and most are on the phone)
35. The Old Black Rum – Great Big Sea (I think a bloody racket might soon begin I must have said something to the George Street queen Now the boys are joining in)
36. An American Draft Dodger in Thunder Bay – Sam Roberts (Crossed the border late at night and it was high stakes until he saw the Great Lakes)
37. City is Mine – Drake (Yo, the city is mine ((Which one?)) T-O-R-O-N-T-O)
38. Parkdale – Metric (I’m flipping out in the magazine neighborhood)
39. Canada vs. America – Broken Social Scene (I’m from the city of love we all don’t feel loved)
40. Far From Home – Neil Young (Walking down the trans-Canada highway I was talking to a firefly)
Yes indeed - Stan Rogers - Northwest Passage (to the sea)

Last week, in advance of the Juno Awards, we listed some of our favourite road tunes that reference Canada’s cities and geographical landmarks. Apparently, you thought we left out a few. Quite a number of people chastised us for failing to mention Hamilton-born folk singer Stan Rogers and for leaving out “Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane. What can we say? Our iTunes collection needs some new downloads.
Here are a selection of your responses:
“I read your article ‘Best Road Tunes’ with enthusiasm. Thanks for that. I hope to download them onto a CD (legally, of course) and present copies to my family and friends in England. These songs really capture The Canadian Spirit. Bravo has been running an excellent show on the Toronto music scene 1955-75. It brought back many memories especially seeing Neil Young in his youth. This song [Ambulance Blues] concerns his memories of ‘T.O.’ Some of the stanzas are a bit obscure but it captures a strong sense of time and place and also reflects Young’s own emotional complexities at the time. I do hope you will have a ‘Part 2’ list soon. I was disappointed to see that Toronto was not included in your list!” —Nicholas Mitchell, Toronto
“How about ‘Lakeside Park’ by Rush? Not sure if it’s Toronto, or a park in the Niagara region actually named ‘Lakeside Park.’ With a line like ‘everyone would gather on the 24th of May, sitting in the sand to watch the fireworks display,’ I’d say it’s pretty patriotic.” — Jeannette Goulin, Toronto
[Editor’s note: Lakeside Park references a park in St. Catherines, where drummer Neil Peart spent some time as a kid.]
“How could you not include ‘Canadian Railroad Trilogy’ by Gordon Lightfoot? It’s the railroad! That’s what defined Canada!” — Dan Sideen
“Fun article! I thought of these additions: Skydiggers – ‘November in Ontario’; Sloan – ‘The Rest of My life’ ( I know I’ll be living it in Canada); Kathleen Edwards – ‘Oh Canada.’” — Linda McIlwain
“Your column was great and I realize you can’t capture all the ‘best road tunes’ in one small article but how could you miss ‘Life is a Highway’ by Tom Cochrane? . . . he mentions Vancouver. And also Bruce Cockburn’s ‘The Coldest Night of the Year’ — he mentions Yonge Street and Scarborough — a true Toronto song! And don’t forget Gino Vanelli’s ‘I Just Want to Stop’ . . . When I think of those nights in Montreal. . . . And my favourite Canadian band, The Barenaked Ladies, with their song ‘One Week.’ The last words of the song are ‘Birchmount Stadium, home of the Robbie.’ It refers to an annual soccer tournament held for charity at Birchmount Stadium in Scarborough. And also Barenaked Ladies song ‘Hello City’ is about Halifax.” — Shelley Barnett
“Some other suggestions: ‘Donkey Riding’ by Great Big Sea (Quebec, Miramichi, Fortune Bay). ‘Poutine’ by The Dreadnoughts (obvious from the title, but still Rimouski, Repentigny, Chicoutimi, Lac Megantic, etc.). ‘Western Skies’ by Blue Rodeo (mentions Queen Street in Toronto, but compares it unfavourably to . . . well, western skies. Duh.). ‘Your Ex-Lover is Dead’ by Stars (I know, I know, this one is a stretch, but this is such a great song that I had to mention it. The image of two ex-lovers travelling in a taxi across Montreal’s Pont Champlain in silence, with the guy struggling to remember the woman’s name . . . brilliant.)” — Alex Lofthouse, Toronto
“You missed a great song called ‘Moody Manitoba Morning’ [by Rick Neufeld]. For those of us who grew up in small Prairie towns in Canada this song says it all.” — Orry Kirby
“Check the many songs of Stan Rogers regarding songs of Canada — there are many that reference towns, cities and sites of Canada.” — Alvin Tilk
“I’d add Joel Plaskett’s ‘Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’’ to that list: ‘The yellow lines are glowing, Oh, highway roll me home.’ It’s a beauty, eh?” — Andrew Patriarche
“While your picks are great, we feel you missed a couple of no brainers: Northwest Passage – Stan Rogers; Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane.” — Jim Hair, Toronto
Want to keep the debate grooving? Check out the list by Star Travel’s Adrian Brijbassi and let us know what you think.

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