By Adam Bunch

ALANIS MORISSETTE’S LANDMARK ALBUM

It wasn’t her first album. That came all the way back in 1991, when Alanis Morissette was still a teenager living in Ottawa and performing as a dance-pop star. Her debut full-length album, Alanis, was only released in Canada, but the record did well here. It went platinum, and its single, “Too Hot,” climbed all the way into the Top 20 on the charts. It earned her three JUNO Award nominations, and she won the award for Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year. Her follow-up album did pretty well, too. The ballad-driven Now Is The Time went gold in Canada and put three singles into the Top 40. Alanis became known as the Canadian answer to Tiffany.

But something was missing. “There was an element of me not being who I really was,” Morissette later told Rolling Stone magazine. “The focus for me then was entertaining people and getting my feet wet in the business, it was about being young and having fun as opposed to sharing any revelations I had at the time.”

Her next album would be a very different affair. By the time it was released, Morissette had graduated from high school. She had moved from Ottawa to Toronto and then to Los Angeles, writing new songs with a new songwriting partner. She signed with Madonna’s new Maverick label. Her old records were pulled from circulation and ignored by the new publicity material. She changed her public name from just plain “Alanis” to “Alanis Morissette.” It was a dramatic break from the past: her new record would be filled with grungier, more mature and much more personal songs – and it would make her an international superstar.

Jagged Little Pill was released in the spring of 1995. It featured six smash hit singles: “You Oughta Know,” “Ironic,” “Hand in My Pocket,” “You Learn,” “Head Over Feet” and “All I Really Want.” A few of them quickly took their place among the defining songs of the entire decade. The record became a landmark album – not just for Morissette’s own career, but for the history of Canadian music and for the entire history of rock ’n’ roll in the 1990s. Jagged Little Pill would rank as the top-selling pop record of the decade, racing up the charts in countries all over the world. In Canada, it spent 24 weeks in the top spot and won five JUNO Awards.

It was during this week in 1995 that the album’s popularity hit its very peak. While Morissette appeared on the covers of both Rolling Stone and Spin magazines, Jagged Little Pill landed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

“YOU OUGHTA KNOW” BY ALANIS MORISSETTE


By Adam Bunch

The Ugly Ducklings (left); Anne Murray (right)

THE TORONTO SOUND

It was the 1960s. Toronto was home to one of the most exciting music scenes on the planet. Every night of the week, the sounds of rock ’n’ roll, soul and folk music could be heard spilling out of the clubs in Yorkville and along the Yonge Street strip. Some of the biggest names in music called the city home over the course of that decade: early versions of The Band and Steppenwolf; solo performers such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell; and future members of The Mamas and The Papas, and The Lovin’ Spoonful – all of them future Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees.

Along with them were countless other bands, from chart-topping stars to local kids playing high school dances.

“It’s a wonder there are any kids left to listen to music in this town,” journalist Bruce Lawson wrote in the Globe and Mail, “they’re all turning to do-it-yourself rock… forming part-time groups like locusts form swarms.”

Bruce Palmer, who would eventually head to Los Angeles and become famous as the bassist for Buffalo Springfield, called Toronto “the most hard-rocking city of its time.”

The city, in fact, developed its own distinct flavour of rock ’n’ roll: what they called “The Toronto Sound.” It was a fuzzy and raucous R&B that many found hard to pin down.

“Ask them to describe it,” according to Lawson, “and they shrug their shoulders, shuffle their feet and say it’s not as relaxed as Nashville; not as up tempo as New York or Detroit; a solid natural beat, something like the Coast. But different.”

Almost everyone did agree, though, that the sound had been deeply influenced by Robbie Robertson, who made his name with his raunchy guitar work on the high school dance circuit before heading to Yonge Street and joining the band that would eventually become The Band.

It was during this week in 1966 that the Toronto Sound had its biggest showcase. For 14 straight hours, 14 of the best rock ’n’ roll bands in the city took the stage at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Ugly Ducklings. The Paupers. Luke and The Apostles. The Big Town Boys. Little Ceasar and The Consuls. Bobby Kris and The Imperials. A song from every set was broadcast to listeners on CHUM Radio, while some of the most influential record producers in the business came to see it all in person. Maybe most important of all: 16,000 screaming fans crowded the city’s biggest hockey arena – more than had come to see The Dave Clark Five. Or The Beach Boys. Or The Rolling Stones.

“NOTHIN’” BY THE UGLY NOTHING

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A BIG HIT FOR ANNE MURRAY

It wasn’t Anne Murray who wrote it. It was another Canadian: Gene MacLellan, a singer-songwriter from Prince Edward Island who was a familiar face on the CBC. His work would be covered by legends such as Bing Crosby, Joan Baez and even Elvis Presley. But it was Anne Murray, who would be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1993, who made the most famous version of his most famous song. It was during this week in 1970 that “Snowbird” peaked in the Top 10 of the Billboard charts.

“SNOWBIRD” BY ANNE MURRAY


By Adam Bunch

Bachman-Turner Overdrive (left); Notre-Dame Basilica de Montréal, home to the great Casavant organs (right, via Bonjour Québec)

BTO’S BIGGEST HIT

In 1974, Bachman-Turner Overdrive was at the top of its game. The band’s new album, Not Fragile, would be its third, and it would also prove to be its most popular. It was released that summer and raced up the pop charts. It would peak right at the very top, sitting at No. 1 – the only BTO album to ever climb that high.

The success of the record was due in no small part to the album’s most famous single. The song was originally written as nothing more than a joke, but it proved to be one of the band’s most popular songs ever. “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” was released during this week in September 1974, and by the time November had rolled around, the track had followed in the footsteps of the album that birthed it: hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 – the only BTO single to ever climb that high.

And the song continued to sell long after that. In 1976, it won the JUNO Award for being the best-selling single of the year. Even 40 years later, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” is still a staple of Canadian radio playlists and of sunny cottage afternoons all over the country.

“YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET” BY BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE

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CANADA’S FOUNDING CHURCH ORGANS

It’s not entirely clear when the sounds of a church organ were first heard in Canada – the details have been lost to history. However, we do know that it happened a very long time before our country officially became its own nation. In fact, church organs had been filling the air of New France with religious hymns for more than 200 years before Confederation.

We know that two organs at two different churches in Quebec City were installed sometime around the middle of the 1600s, when the city was still only a few decades old. They are thought to have been the very first church organs to be played anywhere in the eastern half of North America. The British colonies wouldn’t get their first organ until the early 1700s.

But perhaps the most important early church organ was the one that arrived in Quebec during this week in 1663. It was brought to New France all the way from the old France by François de Laval, the first Roman-Catholic bishop of Quebec, who was officially made a saint by Pope Francis earlier this year. His organ replaced one of those early ones in Quebec City and was used as a template to build many more. Clergymen who had enough skill used it as a guide to make their own copies out of wood.

And so, the music spread. Even now, 350 years after the bright notes of the first pipe organ were heard in Quebec City, the instruments are still found in cities, towns and villages all over Canada. Today, you can find our country’s oldest surviving pipe organ in the village of Kingston in New Brunswick. It was built in England all the way back in 1785.


By James Sandham

Ah, autumn. It’s a strange time, and full of contradictions. It seems that just as some things are gearing up again after summer’s lengthy languor – work, school – others are winding down: the days are getting shorter, the growing season is ending and the unmistakable urge to hunker down, cozy up and prepare ourselves for winter is settling in.

These patterns and cycles are eternal and primeval. Perhaps that’s why the summer’s end and autumn’s beginning are such fecund subjects for our artists: because the contradiction and tension that lie at the heart of this season reflect the same tension that lies at the heart of all creative endeavours. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Veles, the Slavic god of autumn, is also the god of musicians. Well let’s pay homage, then, to Veles and to everything that comes with this strange and transitional time of year. And what better way than through music? The following are a few classics we’ve come up with to set the autumn mood.

MILES DAVIS – “AUTUMN LEAVES”

Gil Evans, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 1997 inductee, did a lot of work with Miles Davis. That’s why we’ve chosen Davis’ 1958 recording, “Autumn Leaves,” to start our autumn playlist. Because really, there’s nothing like a little bebop to set the autumn scene: quiet, introspective and tinged with just a hint of melancholy nostalgia.

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NAT KING COLE – “AUTUMN LEAVES”

“Autumn Leaves” was a popular song back in its day and Davis certainly wasn’t the first to record it. It’s got quite a history, in fact, dating back to its inception in 1945, when it was known by its French title, “Les Feuilles Mortes” (“The Dead Leaves”). American songwriter and Capitol Records co-founder Johnny Mercer wrote the English lyrics in 1947, and the song soon made the transition from the jazz world to the popular music sphere. This iteration comes from a 1957 episode of “The Nat King Cole Show,” although Cole had previously recorded it as the title music for the 1956 movie Autumn Leaves, starring Joan Crawford.

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DUSTY SPRINGFIELD – “SUMMER IS OVER”

When autumn leaves appear, we know that summer is over. To drive the point home, we dug up this timeless piece by Dusty Springfield, which comes from her 1964 release, Dusty. As far as songs go, this one pretty much summarizes the season.

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GARY LEWIS AND THE PLAYBOYS – “WHEN SUMMER IS GONE”

Gary Lewis and the Playboys were an American pop group from the 1960s. They were probably best known for their 1965 single “This Diamond Ring,” but they had a whole slew of good tunes, including this lonesome number from their 1967 album, New Directions. It’s music from a bygone era we’ll never recover again, a sentiment that somehow fits the season perfectly.

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DENNIS HARTE – “SUMMER’S OVER”

Finally, we have this little number from Dennis Harte. From what I’ve been able to find online, it appears to be one of those strange, obscure tunes that would have otherwise been lost, but has somehow managed to filter up into popular awareness. Not bad for a random junk store find, which appears to be how the original seven-inch recording of this was found. Digital copies began to show up online around 2010, and since then the song’s gained a certain amount of niche popularity. It’s the perfect hidden gem to end our playlist. Hope you’re enjoying the autumn!


By Adam Bunch

THE INFAMOUS TOUR OF DOOM

They called it “The Doom Tour.” Promoted by Billy Graham and armed with giant new speaker systems, it was hailed as “the first large-scale stadium tour in rock history.”

During the summer of 1974, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (CSNY) were reunited to play shows together for the first time in years. The tour would take them to 30 different stadiums across North America, including stops at Varsity Stadium in Toronto and the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. However, the shows have been remembered more for what happened backstage than on stage: a debauched orgy of drugs and sex that helped to fuel tensions between the members of the band. That’s why David Crosby gave it the “Doom Tour” nickname.

“We actually had a guy that was employed just to provide us with cocaine,” Graham Nash admitted recently to Rolling Stone. The magazine compiled an oral history of the infamous tour. There are stories about smuggling joints and balls of coke through security, of snorting the stuff off of the carpet, of having meetings in the middle of sexual encounters. The general consensus is that the music suffered as a result. As the band tried to pioneer the big outdoor rock show, they were hardly at their sharpest.

“It’s a horrible drug,” Crosby said of cocaine, “and it has a terrible effect on your psyche and your work. The more we did it, the worse things got.”

For his part, Neil Young chose to keep his distance from the debauchery, travelling on his own bus with his son. “The tour was disappointing to me,” he remembered years later. “I think CSNY really blew it.”

But it was also a time of incredible creativity. The band members were constantly writing new songs, debuting them on stage before they’d even learned how to play them properly. And Young was leading the way. “Neil… My God….” Crosby remembered. “He knocked it out of the park over and over and over. He set the bar very, very high.”

It was on the Saturday afternoon of this week in 1974 that The Doom Tour headed across the Atlantic for one final show in London, England. The band took the stage at Wembley Stadium in front of nearly 100,000 people—and they weren’t alone. The concert was a 10-hour spectacle featuring two of Young’s fellow Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees: Joni Mitchell and The Band.

Earlier this summer, the show was released as part of a box set of live recordings from The Doom Tour. CSNY 1974 features audio and video from nine of the shows the band played on the tour, with some of the flaws edited out to give the recordings a more polished feel. The three-disc album has been met with rave reviews. Even when CSNY weren’t at their best, they were one of the best. Even on one of the most infamous tours in the history of rock and roll.

“ALMOST CUT MY HAIR” BY CSNY, LIVE AT WEMBLEY STADIUM IN 1974


By Adam Bunch

THE BIRTH OF THE CALGARY STAMPEDE

The year was 1912. Calgary had been home to an annual agricultural fair for decades, but this year, Guy Weadick – a trick roper who performed in Wild West shows across North America and Europe – had a new idea. He wanted to start a festival that was both entertaining and a more accurate representation of the real West than the shows he was used to performing in. And so during this week in 1912, the very first Calgary Stampede was held. They called it “The Last and Best Great West Frontier Days Celebration” or “The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth.”

Since those early beginnings, the Calgary Stampede has grown into one of Canada’s most popular events. More than a million people visit every year. It’s one of the biggest festivals in the country and one of the biggest rodeos in the world. It has also developed into one of the biggest musical events of the Canadian summer. Every year, dozens of musical acts take to the stages of the Stampede, from the big stars playing the massive Scotiabank Saddledome to the local talent search at the Boyce Theatre.

This year’s festival included some of the best young acts in Canada – artists such as Said The Whale, Classified and Tokyo Police Club – along with Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Shania Twain. And she’s far from the first inductee to play at the Stampede, or at the related Stampede Roundup charity event – they’ve also included Bryan Adams, The Tragically Hip and k.d. lang. Back in 2012, CMHF inductee Ian Tyson was even named grand marshal of the Stampede Parade.

IAN TYSON ANNOUNCED AS GRAND MARSHAL OF THE CALGARY STAMPEDE PARADE

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“SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT”

This is also a big week in the history of 1980s synthpop star Corey Hart. Hart was born in Montreal and by the time he was in his early 20s, he’d already recorded with the likes of Billy Joel and Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Paul Anka. It wasn’t until 1983, though, that Hart released his own debut full-length album: First Offense. The first single off the record is still considered to be one of the most iconic songs of that entire decade: it was during this week in 1984 that “Sunglasses at Night” climbed all the way to No. 7 on the Billboard pop chart.

Oddly enough, the song wasn’t an instant smash hit north of the border. In Canada, it only peaked at No. 24. But soon enough Canadians were embracing their new star. Hart was nominated for four JUNO Awards that year, and 30 years later, the CBC declared “Sunglasses at Night” the greatest Canadian song of the 1980s.

“SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT” BY COREY HART