By James Sandham27

I know they say you shouldn’t wish your life away, that you should live in the here and now, but when it’s been a winter like this one you’d have to be crazy not to wish it was finished. So let’s look ahead to brighter days – or, at least to slightly less frigid ones – and to all of the good shows we’ll be able to see next month. Without further ado, here are the top five shows to see from coast to coast in March, featuring Canadian Music Hall of Famers Buffy Sainte-Marie, Randy Bachman and more!

*****

VANCOUVER – PUP @ THE MEDIA CLUB – MARCH 3

By this point in the season, winter has probably left you feeling pretty apathetic. That’s why a good shot of solid energy is just what the doctor ordered. Here to deliver it, right into your carotid artery, is PUP, one of Toronto’s most exciting, up-and-coming punk groups. Not only has the band been praised by Stereogum as one of the 40 best new bands of 2013, but it also picked up a Bucky Award for Best Live Show from CBC Radio 3. You’ll be able to experience that show yourself as PUP returns to North America hot off their European tour to make a quick stop in Vancouver before heading down the West Coast of the United States. Get a sense of their performance from the video below.

PUP – “Reservoir”

*****

EDMONTON – YES @ JUBILEE AUDITORIUM – MARCH 24

Perhaps you’re not quite ready to emerge from your period of winter hibernation, or at least not quite ready for the force and alacrity of a PUP concert. Perhaps you’re in Edmonton, wondering why you live somewhere where the air hurts your face and feeling in the mood for a little bit of prog-rock. Well, it just so happens that those titans of the 1970s prog-rock scene, the one and only Yes, are playing the Jubilee Auditorium on March 24. Better buckle up, because things are about to get cosmic.

Yes – “Roundabout”

*****

WINNIPEG – BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE @ WEST END CULTURAL CENTRE – MARCH 4

This year’s Winnipeg Folk Festival may not officially start until July 9, but those who are eager to shake off the winter cobwebs and get into the swing of spring will be happy to know that the festival is making a special presentation on March 4. JUNO Award winner, Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee, former “Sesame Street” cast member and PhD educator Buffy Sainte-Marie will be performing at West End Cultural Centre. It’s general admission, so get your tickets quick.

Buffy Sainte-Marie – “Darling Don’t Cry”

*****

TORONTO – RANDY BACHMAN @ MASSEY HALL – MARCH 15

Famous faux-stutterer and recent Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Randy Bachman will perform an intimate show on March 15, inspired by his award-winning CBC Radio program “Vinyl Tap. He’ll tell the stories behind the iconic songs of both The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, including “These Eyes,” “Takin’ Care of Business” and “American Woman.” Accompanied by a stunning multimedia backdrop, it’s sure to be a fascinating journey through Canadian rock ’n’ roll history.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive – “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”

*****

MONTREAL – BLUE RODEO @ SALLE WILFRID-PELLETIER – MARCH 2

The Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2012 inductees, Blue Rodeo, seem to be doing alright these days. Not only were Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor appointed officers of the Order of Canada this year, but the band has also been named Canada’s 2014 Record Store Day Ambassadors. Plus, they’re up for a JUNO Award next month – for Group of the Year, no less! But you don’t get all of these accolades without working tirelessly, which is why the band is currently out in support of its latest album, In Our Nature, the group’s 13th studio release. You can catch them in Montreal on March 2, the final stop of the tour.

Blue Rodeo – “Try”


By Adam Bunch

The Bodyguard (left); Alanis Morrisette (right)

THE CANADIAN BEHIND THE BODYGUARD SOUNDTRACK

Plenty of people remember how popular the soundtrack to The Bodyguard was, and with good reason: it’s the highest selling movie soundtrack of all time. Fewer people, however, remember that the music in the film had a strong Canadian connection: it was produced by Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee David Foster.

Foster was born in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1949, and got his big break in the music industry by joining Chuck Berry’s band while he was still just a teenager. But it’s as a producer that he’s made his biggest mark. Foster has worked behind the scenes for many of the most famous pop stars in the world: Beyoncé, Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Barbara Streisand, Mariah Carey, Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder, The BeeGees, Celine Dion, and the list goes on and on and on. He is, without a doubt, one of the most popular and successful record producers of all time.

His biggest hit ever may very well have come with The Bodyguard. It was Foster who produced and arranged Whitney Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” turning the country tune into an R&B ballad. The song quickly became one of the bestselling singles in the history of recorded music. It even set a record by sitting at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 straight weeks. It became the defining song of Houston’s career, following her not only for the rest of her life, but beyond: it was played as her coffin was carried out of the church at her funeral in 2012.

The song wasn’t Foster’s only contribution to the soundtrack. He also produced several other songs and co-wrote the album’s second-biggest hit, “I Have Nothing.” When the Grammy Award ceremony was held during this week in 1994, Foster cleaned up. That night, he won four awards for his work on The Bodyguard: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Producer of the Year and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocal(s).

Those awards are in no danger of getting lonely. Foster has won a grand total of 16 Grammy Awards over the course of his career. His most recent came in 2011 for his work with Michael Bublé.

*****

A BIG NIGHT FOR CANADIANS AT THE GRAMMYS

Of course, David Foster is far from the only Canadian to clean up at the Grammys. Another big night for Canucks came just two years after Foster won his awards for The Bodyguard soundtrack. At the ceremony held during this week in 1996, Alanis Morissette followed suit, winning four awards, including Best Rock Album for Jagged Little Pill. And she wasn’t alone. Canadians took home 11 Grammys that year, everything from Best Pop Album for Joni Mitchell’s Turbulent Indigo to Rob Bowman’s liner notes for a soul box set.


By Adam Bunch

JONI MITCHELL CALLS IT QUITS FOR THE FIRST TIME

During this week in 1970, Joni Mitchell was at the top of her game. She’d already released two full-length albums by that point. Her third, Ladies of the Canyon, was just about to follow them, featuring one of her most famous songs ever: “Big Yellow Taxi.” In a few weeks, she’d be winning her first Grammy Award. Even other artists were finding success with her songs; the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young version of “Woodstock” would hit No. 1 later that year.

But as Mitchell stood on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England, she announced that she’d had enough. This, she said, would be her very last live performance.

Luckily, Mitchell changed her mind. She’d be back on stage playing some of her biggest shows ever in just a few short months. That summer, she was one of the headliners at the Isle of Wight Festival, along with The Who, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix (just a couple of weeks before he died). It was hailed as the largest concert of its time – bigger, even, than Woodstock. Later that year, she would even return to that very same stage at the Royal Albert Hall, playing a show with her new boyfriend, James Taylor.

Since then, Mitchell has occasionally announced her retirement again. But thankfully, more than 40 years later, she’s still performing from time to time. She was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1981.

*****

A THROAT-SINGING INUKTITUT OPERA

It was, oddly enough, a Welshman who composed the groundbreaking 1990 opera Tornrak. In fact, the Welsh National Opera commissioned it. But the composer, John Metcalf, was living in Canada at the time. He was working as the artistic director of the music theatre department at The Banff Centre, living high among the Rocky Mountains. His third opera, he decided, would unite his British roots with his new Canadian home. He based it on the true story of an Inuit girl who saved the life of a British sailor while he was stranded in the Canadian Arctic during the mid-1800s – and the racism and hardship she faced after he took her to live in England.

The opera combined Western music with Inuit throat singing. The English-language libretto was mixed with long sections that had been translated into Inuktitut, and while the lack of indigenous performers would certainly raise questions of cultural appropriation today, at least one of the performers who did appear in Tornrak travelled to Iqaluit to learn throat-singing techniques in person.

The opera had its “official premiere” in the Welsh capital of Cardiff before heading out on tour to visit six English cities over the course of the summer of 1990. But it was during this week of that year that Tornrak had its very first performance – at The Banff Centre – before it headed across the Atlantic.

Image: Joni Mitchell (left, via Tumblr); Tornrak performed at The Banff Centre (right, via the homepage of Christopher Leon King)


By James Sandham

It’s the big day tomorrow, so to get you in the mood we’ve picked out five of the best songs about love by Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees. Break out the bubbly, dim the lights and enjoy.

1. BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE – “I’M IN LOVE”

Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s most recent inductees, are known for their hard-rockin’ songs about “Roll[ing] on Down the Highway,” “Lookin’ Out for #1” and “Takin’ Care of Business.” I guess you could say they can be pretty “Blue Collar” at times, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t got a soft side as well. As this song demonstrates, BTO can be just as soppy as the rest of us. “I’m in Love” comes from the band’s 1978 release, Street Action, which was their seventh studio album.

*****

2. THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS – “DEDICATED TO THE ONE I LOVE”

OK, OK – so maybe a song about hooking up with someone at a bar isn’t your idea of a love song. Well, if BTO’s not your style, then maybe this tune from Denny Doherty et al. will set the mood. It was originally a hit for North Carolina’s The “5” Royales before being covered by 1960s girl group The Shirelles and then, finally, by The Mamas and The Papas. This was the first song in which the group gave Michelle Phillips the lead over Mama Cass Elliot.

*****

3. NEIL YOUNG – “ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK YOUR HEART”

But maybe you’re spending Valentine’s Day on your own. Maybe you’ve got out the old photos and you’re just mooning away over some long-lost but unrequited love. Well then, cue the Neil Young. This song was ostensibly written for Graham Nash after his split from another Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee – the mellifluous Ms. Mitchell (Joni, that is) – although, apparently in later interviews, Young has been somewhat tentative in remembering this. It was Young’s first Top 40 hit as a solo artist.

*****

4. IAN AND SYLVIA – “LOVIN’ SOUND”

Unlike many of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s other inductees, Ian and Sylvia aren’t exactly household names. They were a folk-country duo based out of Toronto who began performing together in the late 1950s and eventually married in 1964. They’re probably best known for their song “Four Strong Winds,” which through a 2005 poll the CBC deemed to be the “most essential” piece of Canadian music. In any case, here they are with a good old-fashioned ode to l’amour.

*****

5. GORDON LIGHTFOOT – “LOVE AND MAPLE SYRUP”

Last but not least, we present Gordon Lightfoot’s “Love and Maple Syrup.” Ian and Sylvia’s “Four Strong Winds” may have been deemed the “most essential” piece of Canadian music, but I think Lightfoot certainly gives them a run for their money with this one. Here’s hoping your Valentine’s Day is sweet, but not too sappy.


By Adam Bunch

Album cover from Bob Dylan’s Pure Dylan (left); album cover from Anna Russell’s Encore? (right)

THE RETURN OF BOB DYLAN AND THE BAND

Bob Dylan’s 1966 world tour is one of the most famous tours in the history of rock ’n’ roll. It was the first time he hit the road after going electric at the Newport Folk Festival and it was also the first time he played with Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees The Band as his backing outfit. It was a controversial series of shows. Folk fans upset with Dylan’s new sound booed him, even called him Judas. It was a tough reception at the end of an exhausting period in Dylan’s life.

“I was on the road for almost five years,” he told Rolling Stone. “It wore me down. I was on drugs, a lot of things… just to keep going, you know?”

After it was all over, Dylan had a terrible motorcycle accident. He wouldn’t stage another major tour for eight years after that. He didn’t hit the road again until 1974.

But Tour ’74 was a triumphant return. Fans were now used to Dylan’s electric sound and The Band had become famous in their own right: they’d released five albums in those eight years, including their landmark debut Music From Big Pink. While the musicians would later admit they didn’t enjoy themselves on the 1974 tour, it was a very different experience for the crowds. Millions of fans tried to get tickets to the 40 shows in 21 cities played over the course of six weeks, including two shows in The Band’s hometown of Toronto and another two in Montreal.

It was during this week in 1974 that the tour finally came to end, on Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles. In the audience that night were some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, including Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Carole King and Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Neil Young.

Ringo Starr was there too. “It was bloody fantastic,” he said. “The best concert I’ve ever been to.”

Bob Dylan performs “Tangled Up In Blue” in 1974

*****

POKING FUN AT THE OPERA

Long before Seth Rogen, Mike Myers and the cast of “SCTV,” Canada was already producing some of the world’s most popular comedians. Take, for instance, Anna Russell. She was born in England in 1911 and studied piano at the prestigious Royal College of Music in London. But in her late twenties, she and her family moved to Canada and settled in Toronto. She had already met with some success back in the United Kingdom – she did everything from singing folk songs on the BBC to appearing on stage in operas – but it was in Toronto that her career really took off.

The key was that Russell saw the lighter side of music. (It might have helped that she once tripped on stage during an opera in England, accidentally pulling down part of the set.) In Canada, instead of simply performing the music she loved, she poked fun at it. Her “The Ring of the Nibelungs (An Analysis),” which hilariously dissected Richard Wagner’s opera, became a hit. So did her spoof “How To Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera.” Before long, Russell was famous. She toured the world, released bestselling albums, wrote books, worked in film, won awards and performed at Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall and on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

And it all started during this week in 1942. On a wintry Wednesday night at the Eaton Auditorium (now The Carlu) in downtown Toronto, Anna Russell took to the stage with her one-woman show for the very first time.

“The Ring of the Nibelungs (An Analysis)” – Anna Russell


By James Sandham

I’m still getting used to writing “2014” at the end of my dates – but, nonetheless, here we are: concerts for February 2014. Still doesn’t seem quite real. But let’s begin, shall we? Here’s what’s rockin’ this month.

*****

VANCOUVER – D.O.A. @ RICKSHAW THEATRE – FEBRUARY 7

Winter getting you down? Feeling a bit bored? Then why not inject some energy into things with D.O.A., Vancouver’s very own founders of the hardcore scene. Formed more than three decades ago, the band is still going strong. Check out the clip below for a glance back at D.O.A.’s early days.

D.O.A. – “World War 3”

*****

CALGARY – HONEYMOON SUITE @ DEERFOOT INN AND CASINO – FEBRUARY 15

They’ll have just missed Valentine’s Day, but the amorously named band – first formed back in 1981 in Canada’s very own unofficial honeymoon capital of the world, Niagara Falls – will be rolling into Calgary’s Deerwood Inn and Casino mid-month. Better late than never. Time to tease out the hair and party.

Honeymoon Suite – “Burning in Love”

*****

WINNIPEG – BRYAN ADAMS @ CENTENNIAL CONCERT HALL – FEBRUARY 17

In keeping with the love theme, how about this husky heartthrob? Bryan Adams, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2006 inductee, will be doing his thing at Centennial Concert Hall this month. Can’t make it to Winnipeg? Then check out the video below – this is what one of the bestselling singles of all time looks like.

Bryan Adams – “(Everything I Do) I Do it For You”

*****

OSHAWA – BLUE RODEO @ GENERAL MOTORS CENTRE – FEBRUARY 21

Another Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee – 2012’s Blue Rodeo – can be seen this month if you’re in the Oshawa area. Otherwise, you can catch the band at one of its numerous other stops across the country. It’s all part of their 25th anniversary tour, which kicked off at the start of this year in Whitehorse, just after it was announced that Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor would be appointed officers of the Order of Canada. Sounds like 2014 is off to a good start for them!

Blue Rodeo – “Mattawa/New Morning Sun”

*****

MONTREAL – THE BLACK ANGELS WITH ROKY ERICKSON @ VIRGIN MOBILE CORONA THEATRE – FEBRUARY 12

Last, but not least – you’ve probably had enough of snowstorms, so how about a Winter Psych Storm? The Black Angels’ Winter Psych Storm Tour – with former 13th Floor Elevators guitarist and vocalist Roky Ericson – rolls into Montreal this month, one of many stops they’ll be making as they wind their way across the continent. Mind-alteringly good times guaranteed.

The Black Angels – “You’re Mine”


By Adam Bunch

THE WEIRDEST POP SINGLE EVER

It’s not every pop song that has lyrics that start like this: “The United States dollar took another pounding on German, French and British exchanges this morning, hitting the lowest point ever known in West Germany. It has declined there by 41% since 1971.”

But that’s exactly how “The Americans (A Canadian’s Opinion)” begins. It peaked at No. 24 on the Billboard pop chart during this week in 1974.

The “song” was written by a Canadian journalist named Gordon Sinclair. It began as an angry, patriotic screed read by Sinclair on the radio in Toronto – patriotic not about his own country, but about the one to the south. He was fed up with people who criticized the United States (not exactly a rare occurrence at the time: it was the height of the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War) and he took to the airwaves to declare Americans “the most generous and possibly the least appreciated people in all the world.” Listing American achievements and foreign aid initiatives, he argued that the rest of the world should be helping the United States to recover from flooding in Mississippi and tornado damage in the Midwest.

“When the Americans get out of this bind, and they will, who could blame them if they said to hell with the rest of the world?” he asked.

Many Americans, unsurprisingly, loved Sinclair’s editorial. A year later, it was released as a pop single with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” playing in the background. It made Sinclair the second-oldest person to ever hit the Top 40 on the Billboard charts. And getting all the way up to No. 24 was nothing: an earlier version of the same “song” as read by a news anchor from Windsor had made it to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was one of the fastest selling records in American history.

On a trip to Canada a few years later, President Ronald Reagan even personally praised Sinclair for his support. Today, “The Americans” is still a popular track. It tends to go viral after every major American disaster, including 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina.

*****

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, OSCAR BRAND

It was during this week in 1920 that Canadian folk singer Oscar Brand was born in Winnipeg. He moved to New York City as a child, but returned to Canada by the mid-1960s to a host a TV show titled “Let’s Sing Out.” Guests included fellow folk singers such as Phil Ochs, The Weavers and Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot.

During his unbelievably long career, Brand has performed alongside legendary musicians including Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. In fact, that was enough to get him into trouble. Brand’s support for left-wing musicians who were blacklisted during the McCarthy witch-hunts of the 1950s meant that he too was named as a Communist sympathizer. But that didn’t stop him. Brand kept inviting blacklisted performers onto his radio show, “Folk Festival,” while also singing and working in film and television. He’s made 100 records, worked on 400 films and was on the board that led to the creation of the Children’s Television Network and, in turn, “Sesame Street.” Some even say that he was part of the inspiration for the character Oscar the Grouch.

Brand also – in a strange coincidence – narrated his own version of Gordon Sinclair’s “The Americans.”

Today, as he turns 94 years old, Brand is still hard at work: his radio show is still on the air. In December, he celebrated his 68th anniversary as the host of “Folksong Festival.” That makes it “the longest continuously running show in the history of radio,” according to the Guinness Book of World Records. No one has ever spent longer at the helm of a broadcast.

Happy birthday, Mr. Brand.

Oscar Brand performs with Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Joni Mitchell