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30 Hardest-Rocking Canadian Songs Of All Time

Updated on August 19, 2019
Stephen Sinclair profile image

Stephen Sinclair is a Canadian freelance writer who has been publishing professionally for several years.

Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia | Source

Which Canadian bands rock the hardest?

July 1, 2017 marks Canada's 150th anniversary as a nation. Canada Day is a time when Canadians like to listen to music, often together with friends and family. Rock concerts and festivals are held each year. Canada has a rich musical history, so vast that it can be difficult to be aware of all the best songs from decades past. A list of the greatest Canadian rock songs of all time is subjective, and a matter of opinion. Keeping that in mind, here are the 30 hardest-rocking Canadian songs of all time, according to a 45-year-old Canadian guy. Are there any harder-rocking songs? Add other hard-rocking Canadian songs in the comments at the end.

30. April Wine — "I Like To Rock"

Despite being nominated for 11 Juno Awards, April Wine has never graced the stage at the Canadian music event with an acceptance speech. In 2009, the Toronto Star reported on the Halifax-turned-Toronto-based band being inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame.

29. Bachman-Turner Overdrive — "Takin' Care of Business"

One can only wonder if the Bachmans and Fred Turner had any idea that their title and chorus would be referenced almost endlessly in popular culture for the remainder of humanity. "Takin' Care of Business" is fast-paced, hard-rocking, and doesn't let up from start to finish. A seeming wall of music.

28. Platinum Blonde — "Doesn't Really Matter"

Platinum Blonde was the height of Canadian cool, post-"Tom Sawyer," but in the years before names like The Tragically Hip and Sloan would make names for themselves. "Standing in the Dark" was similarly huge. Despite consisting of British and Scottish musicians, the band was based in Toronto and has played many shows to packed Ontario venues.

27. Loverboy — "Turn Me Loose"

Calgary-based Loverboy formed in 1979. Along with "Turn Me Loose," the hit "Working For The Weekend" has become somewhat iconic in American culture, with references turning up in movies, television shows, and advertising. In 1986, Loverboy recorded "Heaven In Your Eyes" for the Top Gun soundtrack. Objectively, "Turn Me Loose" rocks harder.

26. Martha and the Muffins — "Echo Beach"

In the early 1980s, southern California surfers named a stretch of coast in Newport Beach, where the hottest surfing was happening, "Echo Beach." Eventually, Quicksilver marketed a line of surfing trunks that also used the name. The song was a smash in Canada, and could also be heard playing on Toronto beaches throughout the early 1980s. Sort of like the Go Go's "We Got The Beat," with a bit more danger.

25. Nickelback — "Photograph"

For some reason, many people groan when Nickelback is mentioned. "Photograph," is, musically, a great song. Nickelback, along with many new country musicians, like to write about literal events, as if they are playing the roles of characters in a musical. John Mellencamp's "Jack & Diane" seems to follow this literal, linear formula, too. I think this is great. I prefer the existential bent of I Mother Earth's lyrics. However, who rocks harder, Nickelback or I Mother Earth, or for that matter, John Mellencamp? A tough call, and entirely subjective.

24. The Sheepdogs — "I Don't Know"

The Sheepdogs are the youngest band on this list, formed in 2006. The group is said to consider Led Zeppelin and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young among their biggest influences, according to the National Post. "I Don't Know" sounds like a cross between Link Wray and Creedence Clearwater Revival. They appear set for many years of success.

23. David Wilcox — "That Hypnotizin' Boogie"

67-year-old David Wilcox has been rocking since 1970 and has released nine albums. More than one comparison between the style of Wilcox and U.S. rocker George Thorogood has been made over the course of the two musicians' careers. "That Hypnotizin' Boogie" and "Do The Bearcat," another Wilcox hard-rocker, both come from the Montreal musician's first album, 1977's Out of the Woods.

22. The Tea Party — "Temptation"

Active once again, after a six-year hiatus that ended in 2011, The Tea Party has been performing and recording new material. Changes in usage of the term caused the band headaches in the early 2000s.

"So much damage has been done to our name by the political movement that we're considering selling [the band website]," Stuart Chatwood with the group was quoted by BusinessWeek, via the Guradian. "As Canadians, we're sensitive to all the criticism of socialised medicine."

21. Helix — "Rock You"

During the height of the glam-rock, hair-band 1980s, many bands would proclaim their ability to rock, inserting the term into their song titles. When Helix announced their intention to rock, one could be certain that they were completely serious. Helix is still performing today; their most recent album was released in 2014: Bastard of the Blues. Helix got their start in 1974 and are based in Kitchener, Ontario.

20. Lighthouse — "One Fine Morning"

Lighthouse seems to be less of a band, and perhaps more of a community, what with its large and varying membership. The, at times, eclectic group has played to packed venues across Canada since first forming in Toronto in 1968. "1849" is another Lighthouse favorite, which would probably make a good theme to a Western movie.

19. 54-40 — "Nice To Luv You"

Power chords and a rocking beat, "Nice To Luv You" is instantly recognizable to most Canadians, and is often played at sporting events. Based in Vancouver, 54-40 has remained active through the years, sometimes changing members. Current guitarist Dave Genn has played with the Matthew Good Band, who is also featured here.

18. Three Day's Grace — "I Hate Everything About You"

Not all rock is upbeat! Though Three Day's Grace is now based in Toronto, the band got their start in Norwood, located about 150 kilometers east. The band's most recent album is Human, released in 2015. "I Hate Everything About You" was nominated for "People's Choice: Favourite Canadian Group," and "Best Rock Video" with the Much Music Awards.

17. Toronto — "Your Daddy Don't Know"

Originally active from 1978 - 1984, "Your Daddy Don't Know" is probably Toronto's defining hit. It's catchy riff is widely recognized. In addition to reaching the No. 2 spot on Canadian CHUM charts, the iconic Canadian rock song reach No. 77 on U.S. Billboard charts in September 1982.

16. Alanis Morisette — "You Outta Know"

From the album, Jagged Little Pill, "You Outta Know" exemplified Alanis Morisette's shift from pop to alternative when it was unleashed on the public in July 1995. A fair amount of speculation has gone into the identity of the lover the singer seems to be scolding in the single. In 1996, "You Outta Know" spent 30 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 6.

15. Bryan Adams and Tina Turner — "It's Only Love"

Despite being one of Canada's most successful entertainers, with 15 Grammy Awards and 20 Juno Awards, and songs like "Cuts Like a Knife" and "Summer of '69" that, objectively, rock along with the best, one of Bryan Adam's hardest-rocking outings was with Tina Turner, with "It's Only Love." With a pounding beat and driving guitar riff, Adams and Tuner made a perhaps unexpected duo, much to the delight of audiences around the world.

14. Matthew Good — "Alert Status Red"

Back when he played with the Matthew Good Band, Matthew Good rocked. However, "Alert Status Red," released in 2004, two years after the band broke up, might rock even harder. The upbeat tune offers the crunchiness of I Mother Earth-styled guitar, but throughout the entire song. Like music to the ears.

13. Kim Mitchell — "Go For A Soda"

After forming the band Max Webster and a lengthy solo career, Kim Mitchell spent over 10 years as a disc jockey with Toronto rock radio station Q107. Among other memorable hard-rocking Mitchell songs are "Lager And Ale," and "Rock 'N Rock Duty." The musician suffered a heart attack in early 2016, from which he is expected to fully recover, as reported by CTV.

12. The Pursuit of Happiness — "I'm An Adult Now"

Hard-driving Canadian rock about adult problems. Still active today, The Pursuit of Happiness was founded in 1985. The group, led by Moe Berg, has released seven studio albums. In December 1988, "I'm An Adult Now" appeared on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart at No. 7.

11. Big Sugar — "Diggin' A Hole"

Like many of their 90s contemporaries, Big Sugar went through a hiatus during the early 2000s, before regrouping in 2010 and releasing four more albums. "Diggin' A Hole" features thick, bluesy guitar and accompanying harmonica. Just about every Canadian knows its memorable riff and chorus. "Diggin' A Hole" was Big Sugar's highest-charting song.

10. I Mother Earth — "One More Astronaut"

Of the Toronto-based band's four albums, 1996's Scenery and Fish was the most popular. I Mother Earth was on hiatus for a period, but began performing again in 2012, and are set for several shows in 2017. "One More Astronaut" contains some of the chunkiest guitar of the 1990s. Sort of like a Canadian "Cherub Rock."

9. The Guess Who — "American Woman"

Who the very first Canadian rock star was is a matter of opinion. Almost as soon as Canadian musicians heard the distorted power chords of Link Wray's 1958 "Rumble," no doubt, they were busy thinking up tracks like "American Woman," in which Link Wray's influence can almost certainly be heard. The Guess Who were obviously among them and are among the first true Canadian rock stars. "No Sugar Tonight" probably rocks just as hard.

8. Neil Young & Crazy Horse — "Rockin' In The Free World"

Neil Young has been active since 1960, for an astonishing 57 years, and might be one of the most well-known Canadian musicians, internationally. In addition to his lengthy solo career, he has played with Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young; Buffalo Springfield; and with Crazyhorse. Young has been awarded seven Juno Awards, and been nominated for 21. He has also been involved with more than 40 albums, and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2009.

7. Rush — "A Farewell To Kings"

Asking what Rush's hardest-rocking song is, is somewhat akin to asking a member of Generation X for the funniest episode of The Simpsons. Just about all of Rush's songs rock. For this list, a final grouping of Rush candidates included "A Farewell To Kings," "Limelight," and "La Villa Stangiato." While "Limelight" might be a bit more catchy, and "Strangiato" might require more technical proficiency, few other Rush songs can match "A Farewell To Kings" for its fast-driving, hard-rocking sound.

6. Sum 41 — "Fat Lip"

"Fat Lip" and Sum 41 rose to the top while researching the hardest-rocking Canadian songs of all time. Among the younger entrants on the list, Sum 41 are a complete package, with an innovative style infused with both rock and punk. Sum 41 were founded in Ajax, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto and have won two Juno Awards, after being nominated for seven. Sum 41 has released a total of six albums, with the most recent in 2016: 13 Voices.

5. Sloan — "The Good In Everyone"

Originally hailing from Halifax, Sloan is now based in Toronto. Over their almost three decades as a band, Sloan has released several hard-rocking albums, quickly achieving fame with the release of their first, Smeared, in 1992. Other songs from Sloan that rock include "Underwhelmed," and "The Rest of My Life," among others. "The Good In Everyone" offers enough John Bonham-inspired drumming and Keith Richards-inspired guitar to satisfy the most discerning hard-rock ear.

4. Sam Roberts — "Where Have All The Good People Gone?"

Other Sam Roberts classics include "Hard Road," and "Brother Down." Sam Roberts may be one of the most quintessentially Canadian, as well as hardest-rocking, performers in the country today. "Where Have All The Good People Gone?" was released in 2003 and continues to be regularly played on Canadian radio stations. The most recent album from the Sam Roberts Band, the sixth, is Terraform, released in October 2016.

3. Headstones — "Tweeter and the Monkey Man"

Interestingly, "Tweeter and the Monkey Man" was first played by The Traveling Wilburys, in 1988. The version played by The Headstones is considerably heavier. Other songs by the Headstones worthy of inclusion in hard-rock libraries include "Unsound" and "When Something Stands For Nothing." Lead singer Hugh Dillon has also found success as an actor, appearing in Flashpoint and Durham County, among other productions. The Headstones have released a total of nine albums and have been active since 2011, after taking an eight-year break.

2. The Tragically Hip — "New Orleans Is Sinking"

In May 2016, Gord Downie, the lead singer of The Tragically Hip, announced that he had terminal brain cancer, as reported by the CBC. The news led to an outpouring of support from fans of the band, who subsequently toured to promote their latest album. Through 2016, Downie was also an integral part in The Secret Path, which tells the tragic tale of Chanie Wenjack's life and death. Just this month, the Government of Canada announced that the members of the Hip will receive the Order of Canada, also reported by the CBC.

1. Our Lady Peace — "Starseed"

Our Lady Peace is said to have come up with the name for Canada's hardest-rocking song after being inspired by the book, The Starseed Transmissions, by Ken Cary. Also from the same album, 1994's Naveed, the band's debut, the title track, "Naveed," is known for its hard-rocking guitar and beat. Formed and based in Toronto since 1992, Our Lady Peace has been performing and recording continuously since, releasing a total of eight albums.

Honorable mention one

Honorable mention two

Honorable mention three

© 2017 Stephen Sinclair


Submit a Comment
  • Stephen Sinclair profile imageAUTHOR

    Stephen Sinclair 

    2 years ago from Canada

    A reader has suggested "Paper Girl," by July Talk. I believe they rock thoroughly enough for inclusion here:

  • Stephen Sinclair profile imageAUTHOR

    Stephen Sinclair 

    2 years ago from Canada

    @Keith Abt I did consider Triumph, I think they're great, but I didn't think they were hard enough. However, when compared to Joni Mitchell, they probably are. Great eye!

  • FatFreddysCat profile image

    Keith Abt 

    2 years ago from The Garden State

    Nothin' by Triumph?


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