By Adam Bunch

TWO CANADIANS TOP THE CHARTS AT THE VERY SAME TIME

They came from very different backgrounds. The Crew-Cuts were a doo-wop group from the heart of the big city: choir students in downtown Toronto. Hank Snow was born in small-town Nova Scotia and spent much of his youth as a cabin boy on a fishing schooner before becoming a country crooner. But during this week in the summer of 1954, both Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees were sitting at the top of the Billboard charts.

It started with Snow. “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” was released in early 1954 and by the middle of June it had climbed all the way to the top of Billboard’s Country and Western chart – and that was just the beginning. The song spent an amazing 20 weeks at No. 1: throughout the entire summer of 1954 and all the way to the end of October. The tune would eventually be covered by everyone from Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan to Dinah Washington. Even Snow himself released another version of the same song years later.

The Crew-Cuts soon joined him as chart-toppers. A couple of weeks after “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” claimed the top spot on the Country and Western chart, the Toronto group arrived on the Hot 100 with the song that would prove to be their biggest hit: “Sh-Boom.” It immediately leapt all the way up to No. 8, knocking another one of their own tunes, “Crazy ’Bout You Baby,” out of the Top 10 – and “Sh-Boom” kept climbing. Just a few weeks after it debuted, the song was sitting at No. 1. It would stay there for the next seven straight weeks and continue to be the most-played song on the radio and on jukeboxes for weeks after that.

So during this week in 1954 – and for a span of seven straight weeks through nearly all of August and September – there were two Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees sitting atop the Billboard charts at the very same time.

“SH-BOOM” BY THE CREW-CUTS

“I DON’T HURT ANYMORE” BY HANK SNOW

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“THE SUMMER OF ’69” IN THE SUMMER OF ’85

More than 30 years after Snow and The Crew-Cuts topped the charts, another Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee found himself sitting high on the Billboard Hot 100. It was during this week in the summer of 1985 that Bryan Adams reached No. 5 with his smash hit “Summer of ’69.” In fact, the nostalgic tune raced up pop charts all over the world: in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Austria….

Even today, three decades after the song was first released, it’s still remembered as one of Adams’ greatest hits. It regularly ranks on best-of lists: the best songs of the ’80s, the best Canadian songs ever and even, quite simply, one of the best songs of all time.

“SUMMER OF ’69” BY BRYAN ADAMS


By James Sandham

Is it that time already? Ruefully, I must concede it does appear to be so: I got off my train the other day only to be shocked that the Canadian National Exhibition, a.k.a. the death knell of summer, has rolled back into town. Somehow it’s the end of August already. But don’t despair! Luckily the CNE has brought a bunch of great music with it, so before you send the kids off to school, here are a few musical treats you might indulge in (alongside the fair’s infamously, shall we say, less nutritious offerings).

FRIDAY, AUGUST 22: PLATINUM BLONDE @ MOLSON CANADIAN MIDWAY STAGE

Venerable cultural institution that it undoubtedly is, the CNE is nonetheless a little… let’s say kitschy. Perhaps even tacky. And there’s definitely something anachronistic about it. Which is why, of course, you should be heading down there on August 22 to catch Platinum Blonde, Canada’s kings of ’80s new wave. No word on whether they’ll be rocking recreations of their iconic hairstyles, but no matter – while styles like that can come and go, the music, on the other hand, is timeless. Check out their video, below, which earned them one of their first JUNO Award nominations.

Platinum Blonde – “Standing in the Dark”

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SUNDAY, AUGUST 24: SUMMER OF 69 @ MOLSON CANADIAN MIDWAY STAGE

Hey everyone! Check it out – the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2006 inductee will be performing live at the CNE for your listening pleasure! Or, at least, someone similar to him will be. Summer of 69 may be a tribute band, but you’d swear you were listening to Bryan Adams himself.

Bryan Adams – “Summer of ’69”

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THURSDAY, AUGUST 28: DEVIN CUDDY @ MOLSON CANADIAN MIDWAY STAGE

You may be familiar with a little group called Blue Rodeo. They’re only the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2012 inductees, after all! Well frontman Jim Cuddy happens to have spawned a musical offspring and, as much as I’m sure Devin Cuddy would prefer to stand on his own two feet without the incessant references to his dad, the fact remains that if you like his father’s work, you’ll probably like his own brand of country-infused roots-rock.

The Devin Cuddy Band – “Kitchen Knife”

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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 27: APRIL WINE @ CNE BANDSHELL

Alright. So far on the itinerary we’ve had a Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee tribute band and a Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee’s offspring, but now it’s time for the real deal. April Wine, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2010 inductees, will be live at the Ex! Not as a tribute, not as an impersonator, but LIVE and in the flesh. I’ve got chills just thinking about it. Just imagine hearing great tunes like the one below while the lights of the midway twinkle behind you. Now that’s what summer memories are made of.

April Wine – “Like a Lover, Like a Song”

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SATURDAY, AUGUST 30: TOM COCHRANE @ CNE BANDSHELL

Finally, on the last Saturday of August – that is, the closing weekend of the CNE – what better way is there to ring in the season’s end than with a performance by Canadian music legend Tom Cochrane? That’s a rhetorical question, obviously, because the only answer is “none” – unless, of course, you could possibly have a performance by TWO Tom Cochranes. That would be admittedly better, strictly from a quantitative standpoint… but guess what? There’s only one! And we’ve got him here, live at the CNE!

Tom Cochrane – “I Wish You Well”

Hope everyone’s summer has been sweet!


By Adam Bunch

THE LOVIN’ SPOONFUL’S BIGGEST HIT

During the summer of 1966, The Lovin’ Spoonful was at the height of its powers. The group had only been around for a couple of years, but was already one of the most popular bands in the world. The band had first formed as part of the early 1960s folk scene in New York City’s Greenwich Village. American John Sebastian (son of a classical harmonica player) teamed up with Toronto’s Zal Yanovsky (who once lived in a dryer in a Yorkville laundromat, played in a folk-pop band with Mama Cass and fellow Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Papa Denny Doherty, and was also the husband of future “Road To Avonlea” actor Jackie Burroughs). It only took the Spoonful about a year to release its very first single and it was a smash hit: in the summer of 1965, “Do You Believe In Magic” raced up the Billboard charts all the way into the Top 10.

That was just the beginning. “Do You Believe In Magic” was the first of seven straight Lovin’ Spoonful singles to reach the Top 10, including “Daydream,” “You Didn’t Have to Be so Nice” and “Did You Ever Have to Make up Your Mind?” The group was one of only two 1960s bands to get off to such an impressive start on the charts. The other was Gary Lewis and The Playboys. Not even The Beatles or The Rolling Stones were able to match their record.

The biggest hit of them all was “Summer in the City.” It was released during the summer of 1966 and nearly 50 years later is still one of the most iconic songs of the season, played on radio stations all over the world when the weather gets warm. During this week in August 1966, the song climbed all the way to the very top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, where it would stay for three consecutive weeks.

Zal Yanovsky was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1996.

“SUMMER IN THE CITY” BY THE LOVIN’ SPOONFUL

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THE KING OF THE BANJO

Canada’s “King of the Banjo” was born in New Brunswick during the winter of 1920. His name was Maurice Bolyer. Growing up, he learned to play a wide range of instruments, including the piano, but as a teenager he picked up the one that would make him famous.

By the time he was in his early twenties, Bolyer was making appearances playing banjo on a local radio station, performing with Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Hank Snow. Before long, he would be heard in kitchens and living rooms all across the country as a regular guest on the CBC’s “Tommy Hunter Show” – first on radio and then TV – and then all across the continent thanks to American programs like “The Lawrence Welk Show.” By the time his career came to an end, Bolyer had earned a place as one of the greats in the history of his favourite instrument and in Canadian country music as a whole.

Maurice Bolyer, the King of the Banjo, passed away during this week in 1978.


By Adam Bunch

BEATLEMANIA HITS TORONTO IN 1965

It was the summer of 1965. The summer of “Help!” and “Ticket To Ride.” Just two days earlier, The Beatles had played one of the most famous concerts in the entire history of rock and roll: their gig at Shea Stadium. However, that visit to New York City was just the first stop on a big North American tour. The next leg brought them to Canada, to play in Toronto for the second year in a row. On August 17, they played two sold-out shows to a total of 36,000 screaming fans during one long night at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Fab Four were late to arrive, but that didn’t seem to faze the group’s rabid fans, some of whom had camped out at the airport overnight in the hope of catching a glimpse of their mop-topped heroes. Downtown, ecstatic teenagers crowded around the King Edward Hotel, where the band was staying, annoying the other guests. The organizer of an engineering conference was particularly miffed.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” he complained to the Toronto Star, “my old man would have skinned me alive if I’d acted like this.”

Police said the fans in Toronto were even more excited than they’d been the year before, when the crowd outside the hotel had torn Paul McCartney’s shirt and the band had found a girl hiding in their closet.

The trouble created by the giant crowds wasn’t the only problem, either. As thousands of fans waited to get inside the Gardens, some vile person took the opportunity to drop anti-Semitic flyers on the crowd. The teenagers, thinking the flyers might be free tickets to the show, raced to collect them, only to be disgusted by what they found.

Inside, the show was getting underway. The night was hosted by CHUM radio DJ Jungle Jay Nelson. The opening acts included a team of gymnasts and Motown star Brenda Holloway. Inside the arena, the air was hot and sticky. The anticipation mounted, ready to hit a fever pitch.

Finally, The Beatles arrived. The biggest band in the history of the world took the stage and launched into their first tune: “Twist & Shout.” They were met by what the Globe and Mail described as: “An orgy [of] 18,000 screaming, waving, bouncing, flashbulb-clicking, laughing, sobbing, hysterical teen-agers” who, as usual, drowned out the actual music. It was, said the Globe, “V-Day, the Grey Cup, the visit of the Queen Mother and the chariot race in Ben-Hur all rolled into one.”

More than 600 police officers were on hand to keep things under control – the next day, the Star suggested that Toronto’s criminals had taken advantage of the situation: three armed robberies took place while the cops were distracted. Scores of ambulance workers rushed to the aid of the fans who just couldn’t take it. Three hundred of them fainted.

Between sets, The Beatles held a press conference in the Hot Stove Lounge, delivering their usual off-the-wall humour between questions about their movies and whether Paul was going to propose to his girlfriend. Then, it was back into the fray. During their second show, they played the same dozen songs they’d played during their first show, featuring the same incredible string of tunes at the end –  “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Help!” and, finally, “I’m Down” – not that anyone could hear them over all of the screaming.

And then it was all over. The band, exhausted from their day, spent the night at the King Edward. In the morning, they were off to Atlanta. They wouldn’t be back to visit Canada until the next year, when they played Maple Leaf Gardens again, on the very same night in 1966.

“TWIST AND SHOUT” BY THE BEATLES


By Adam Bunch

THE GREAT MONTREAL NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK HEIST

It was 1990. Boy bands were all the rage. New Kids on the Block was one of the most popular groups in the entire world. The group’s last album, Hangin’ Tough, had spent more than two years on the Billboard charts. And now, NKOTB had a new record. Step by Step would sell more than 20 million copies and spawn a massive tour to visit one hundred different cities in North America and Europe – all sponsored by Coke. The dates in the United States and Canada proved to be the most successful road trip by any band in history not called “The Rolling Stones,” and it included a stop at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

On a Sunday night during this week in 1990, 57,000 people showed up to see NKOTB take the stage at the Big O. Many of them paid for more than just their tickets. The band had a merchandising empire: “lunch boxes, buttons, T-shirts, comic books, dolls, trading cards and even a Saturday morning cartoon.” They sold hundreds of millions of dollars of souvenirs every year. They made a killing at every show they played – including the one in Montreal.

For three particular criminals, that haul made a tempting target. After the show, they burst into a room at Olympic Stadium where a dozen employees were counting the money made selling merchandise that night. The thieves were armed with revolvers. They handcuffed the employees and placed a grenade by the door, telling their victims that if they tried to escape the grenade would explode. It was a fake, but no one realized that until much later. Then, the bandits made off with nearly $300,000 in NKOTB souvenir money.

Since there don’t seem to be any newspaper reports following up with news of a conviction, it could very well be that the villains behind the Great Montreal New Kids on the Block Heist are still out there somewhere, waiting for another reunion tour to pass through Montreal.

“STEP BY STEP” BY NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

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THE OPENING OF THEATRE UNDER THE STARS

All the way back in 1934, a new bandshell was built in the Malkin Bowl of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Just a few years later, a new society was founded to bring music to that spot every year. The program was called Theatre Under the Stars. The very first season opened during this week in 1940. While the organization would be disbanded in the 1960s, a new version of the group is still going strong more than 70 years after Theatre Under the Stars first took the stage. In that time, the group has brought dozens of musicals and operettas to the people of Vancouver: from Footloose to My Fair Lady, from Jesus Christ Superstar to The Mikado, and from The Sound of Music to this year’s musical versions of Shrek and Legally Blonde.

PREVIEW OF THE 2013-2014 SEASON


By James Sandham

“The English winter – ending in July, to recommence in August.” Or so quipped Lord Byron, who could just as well have been writing about Canada. But fret not: hyperbolic cynicism aside, the winter is still a long way off and, though we may soon find ourselves in the sunny season’s inevitable dying days, there is still a ton of fun summer stuff to do in the meantime. Like attending concerts, which I’m pretty sure is why we even have the month of August at all. So without further ado, let’s take a glance at some of the great events we can look forward to in August.

VANCOUVER – BURNABY BLUES AND ROOTS FESTIVAL @ DEER LAKE PARK – AUGUST 9

The Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival is an annual event that takes place on the outskirts of Vancouver. Now in its 15th year, the festival’s 2014 lineup includes names such as Big Sugar, Wide Mouth Mason, Blind Boy Paxton and the incomparable Bettye LaVette, among others. When it comes to ways to spend a Saturday in August, this has got to be one of the best. Check out the video below for a taste of the talent.

Bettye LaVette – “I’m Not the One”

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CALGARY – ARCADE FIRE @ SCOTIABANK SADDLEDOME – AUGUST 12

Moving east, we’ve got Montreal’s international indie sensation Arcade Fire, who will be touching down in Calgary as part of their Reflektor Tour after several stops along America’s Pacific Coast. Can’t catch ’em in Calgary? Not to worry! They’ll also be making stops in Squamish, BC, and in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal, as well. What’s more, if you catch them in Edmonton, Calgary or Winnipeg, you’ll also get a dose of their neo-psych-pop supporting act, TuneYards.

Arcade Fire – “We Exist”

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WINNIPEG – TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS @ MTS CENTRE – AUGUST 21

It’s a shame to be inside in August. But if it’s to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, we’d even be happy to curl up in a closet. These guys sound like the summer’s fading light: warm, nostalgic and just a bit hazy. They’re on tour all month, so if you can’t catch ’em in the ’Peg, they just might be swinging by a town near you.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – “You Wreck Me”

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TORONTO – BLUE RODEO @ MOLSON CANADIAN AMPHITHEATRE – AUGUST 15

For our Toronto selection, it was a bit of a toss-up: we had Alice Cooper and Mötley Crüe performing at the Molson Amphitheatre on August 10, and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2012 inductees, Blue Rodeo, performing on August 15. In the end, though, we had to go with Jimmy Cuddy and co. – obviously! Their summer concert at the Molson Amphitheatre has become a bit of a tradition, one we hope doesn’t end any time soon. Saskatoon’s The Deep Dark Woods will be opening.

Blue Rodeo – “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet”

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MONTREAL – OSHEAGA MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL @ PARC JEAN-DRAPEAU – AUGUST 1 TO 3

Finally, let’s cast our gaze toward la belle province and that Canadian summer staple: the multi-day music fest. From the Squamish Valley Music Festival in B.C. to the Hillside Festival in Ontario, this country has seen some good ones. But it would be hard to top Montreal’s three-day celebration of all things musical: the one and only Osheaga Music and Arts Festival. This year’s lineup is huge and features a variety of acts, including Outkast, Skrillex, Jack White, Lorde, Kevin Drew, Sam Roberts Band, Mac DeMarco, Serena Ryder and many, many more. There’s something for everyone. Sounds like the perfect way to round off the summer!

Sam Roberts Band – “Shapeshifters”