Thursday, November 19, 2009


APRIL WINE: "Our drummer used to work at Bob Evans..he can put the sugar in your coffee!"

When I was a little kid, I remember not having too much of an opinion about Canada. Except I sure liked the way the country looked on a map. It was huge! Look at all of those islands! Plus it seemed weird enough and isolated enough to enter my consciousness of odd places I would like to go to, right up there with Australia, New Zealand, Iceland or the Soviet Union. So that is pretty much what I thought of when I thought of Canada as a little kid. By the time I was bitten by the rock and roll bug things were a little bit different. I still wasn’t aware of anything being Canadian but a few things stood out and slowly started to make sense. And it was virtually two things: The band Rush and the comedy show SCTV.

As maybe two of you reading this know, I think SCTV is still the best comedy show that ever was. Most of the cast members were Canadian, except for Joe Flaherty and Andrea Martin. These are still some of the funniest people ever gathered under one roof: John Candy, Catherine O Hara, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, Martin Short and Dave Thomas. Oh how I laughed and laughed and the funny thing is, I still laugh. A lot of the humor seemed more cerebral and slightly less “yahoo” based, if you know what I mean. Was there a comedic Canadian sensibility going on that I didn’t know about? Looking back, I don’t think so. The show never really did a whole lot of Canadian content as far as what I can remember. There was a parody of a Canadian movie about a kid who played hockey (John Candy in the prime role, a funny performance I might add). It was a pretty dry parody about something that I knew nothing about and yet I still thought it was hilarious.

What SCTV is most famous for is the dumbest thing that they did and the one thing that caught on in the states in 1982 or so. it was Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas doing their Bob and Doug Mackenzie “Great White North” characters, and the thing was huge. I clearly remember that. It was just a stereotypical view of Canada and it for better or for worse is what most people thought about when they thought about Canada.

The band Rush was the other thing that introduced me to Canada. Again, there was nothing really “Canadian” about the music they were doing: impeccably played proggish hard rock with wailing banshee vocals. And yet still..Canadians playing some really kick ass music! They seemed really serious. The rock press always hated them. Creem magazine, a influential and important rock magazine from the seventies REALLY hated them. I admit that they were a hard sell and seemed devoid of all the humor and sex that rock music often has, but if you have heard Geddy Lee sing “In The Mood”, you’d understand why it was best that they stuck to singing about Passages to Bankok and Cinderella Men. Years later, I saw some interview footage of all three of the members of Rush and was delighted to learn what I had suspected all along: These guys are a bunch of goofy nerds! Even Neil Peart! Thanks to SCTV and Rush, a few other things started to slip on by as far as my understanding a little of Canada.

So in the early eighties I started to realize who was Canadian and who wasn’t. I thought that Anne Murray was kind of hot in a manly sort of way when I spied those early seventies album covers back when I was a little kid. Turns out she is Canadian. Neil Young is one of my favorite songwriters on earth. Figured out he is Canadian. Bachman Turner Overdrive were some of the ugliest dudes I had ever seen, and they were Canadian. I already figured out that Triumph was Canadian due to the fact that they were always being called “a poor man’s Rush” and I thought that they really stunk. April Wine was a band that I also remember liking and lo and behold they were also Canadian, boasting a three guitar lineup and a huge bulky bald drummer named Jerry. A lot of the cover art of these earlier Canadian hard rock bands also seemed to be done really badly, like the bands had maybe a day to get it all together.

Eventually punk rock happened, and so my awareness of Canada expanded. I had lots of Canadian pen pals in the mid to late eighties and a lot of real kick ass bands came out of Canada. Yes, there was DOA. They are the band that everyone probably thinks of first but by the time I was aware of them the still living even now Chuck Biscuits was already in the Circle Jerks and DOA’s best days were behind them. The Neos from Victoria British Columbia were this weird little secret. I had a few Teenage Head records and liked them, especially “Frantic City”. Beyond Possession stayed at my house once, liked hockey and seemed baffled by gay people. The Stretch Marks were a great live band who put out a great seven inch and a shitty album. The band SNFU put on some of the best shows I have ever seen and even let me tag along with them for a week on one of their tours in 1985.

SNFU were quite popular in the states. My favorite lineup was when they had their big hulking death rock bass player Buck and the drummer Jon Card. They seemed to play in Raleigh on three occasions. We cooked them a big spaghetti dinner for then once back when it snowed a lot in the South when I lived with Mike Dean. They were real cool. Some of the locals were baffled by them. You’d ask singer Chi Pig or the Belke Brothers a question and you would get an answer, but it would be like talking to a Rubiks Cube that you are trying to understand. I know that doesn’t make sense, but still; why were we baffled by these Canadians and their straight forward nature? What is it about Canada that seems so pleasantly odd to me? Is there perhaps a small tweak in the program that has Canadians looking at things a little bit different then us stupid Americans? Well, I have a theory. It is probably full of shit, and not true at all, and I am sure somebody will let me know this, but hear me out:

My theory about Canada is that they have slipped by everyone. By seeming to be really benign and unassuming, they are left alone by EVERYONE! Not only that, I get this romantic impression that there just might be a wee bit more common sense up there, like “of course you wouldn’t hate a person because of their skin color..that just doesn’t make sense, you know eh?” Common sense and appearing to be benign so that you could be left seems like a great combination.

I also didn’t mention the band Voi Vod, who of course as everyone with any intelligence knows, is one of the best bands to ever exist. And the Band is also one of the greatest bands to walk the earth. So Canada alone is tops in my book for giving the world Voi Vod, SCTV, The Band and Neil Young. I f you told me I had to live the rest of my life with only these four things as music or entertainment I could easily do it, no problem.

Anyways, I finally had my chance to visit Canada a few years ago when Double Negative was invited by the Toronto band Fucked Up to play a festival that some friends of theirs were putting on. So I was excited needless to say. I would be going to the fatherland!

We were there for four days and I wasn’t let down at all. Toronto was a majestic big city that was real clean. Everyone seemed real nice. It was seemingly asshole-free. The donuts were good. The food was great. They put sugar in your coffee for you, which was an interesting concept for me to grab on to. The rest of the band was convinced I soon would be moving to Canada. Our host was a friendly yet cantankerous fellow named Gabby who was really cool and just let us stay at his house for no reason at all. He was very opinionated and funny and pulled no punches at all with what he thought.Luckily he showed his sensitive side to me when we went to a Asian supermarket by the water and we sat outside talking about all of the “sissy” music that we enjoyed. All of the punk rock types we met were all real sweethearts. We were treated very nice and were paid extremely well. I want to go back there. Hopefully one day I will.

Obviously my theories and thoughts on Canada, especially based on a big handful of records and some old comedy show from years ago and a four day visit isn’t a whole lot to go on, but if you Canadians out there reading this know how wrong I am, please don’t let me know. Some fantasies are good ones.

Anne Murray: hubba hubba


Anonymous said...

It wasn't until I read this that the name "MANCHILD" really made sense. Will you write an essay on Australia next? I bet no one really notices them and there are no racists there either. Y'know? Eh?

Brian said...

Well, since you asked:

"Australia is the home to Ayers Rock and the Birthday Party, who everyone loves.All racism has been abolished since INXS broke up, and no one pays attention to the country as a whole since Bon Scott passed away."

Anonymous said...

Nice comeback,but not quite a save. Now if you had referred to Ayer's Rock as Uluru,mentioned any of Peter Weir's films,name dropped the Saints or just plain dropped the unnecessary quotation marks you would have scored a couple more points,but you went for the obvious. Oh well.

Christian said...

April Wine?!! Really?!! God that's truly embarassing ... both for you & us Canadians.

Yeah Brian, for being a rose coloured view an' all your still pretty spot on; about as accurate as most Canadians who can't cite more than national health care, Tim Hortons (those donuts you speak of, thou most Canadians are totally crackhead about the coffee), and hockey as sources of national heratige or pride.

Your theory of Canada "slipping by everyone. By seeming to be really benign and unassuming ..." is actual kinda interesting ... as a Canadian I've never bought our global image ... but it's nice others do ... it's a good rep to have.

Historically most internationally know Canadiana is pretty sad. I mean Rush is bad enough but the fact anyone associates April Wine with Canada is a bummer ... I can't believe that stink passed our boarders.

Thou you definatly have a handle on the good shit that seems criminally in the shadow of mounds of crap like Rush et al.

SCTV (still gotta frame that Cruising Gourmet print), Voi Vod, SNFU, Neil Young ... all Northern Gold ... did you ever check out those 'Hilarious House of Frightenstien' dvds I gave you to give to Buzz? Now that's some Canadiana!

Looking out for the new DN release, hopefully you'll get to play up here ... missed that last time.

brian said...

hey christian..thanks for the backup man!

I am turning this into a cartoon so look for it will be pretty funny.

Rev. Mike said...

I still remember the moment I realized Strange Brew was based on Hamlet and Bob and Doug McKenzie were Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern. Absolutely brilliant. Thank you Canaduh.