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MUSIC AT 50 or Can an Old Dog Really Learn New Tricks?

Updated on July 22, 2016

MUSIC AT 50 or Can an Old Dog Really Learn New Tricks?

Episode II – Man reflects upon the benefits of access to Canadian Radio during the 1990’s

As a young man I moved from Long Island (just outside of New York City for the geographically challenged) to Buffalo. There were a myriad of reasons and for the last 27 years it has been my home.

An unexpected benefit of this change of locales was access to the radio stations across the Canadian border out of Toronto and Southern Ontario. Much of the Canadian content was new to me and very much of an eye-opener.

Now there has never been a shortage of good music coming from our neighbors to the north. Rush was a staple of my high school years. The Guess Who, The Band, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young all made a large mark, Even bands like Triumph and April Wine made inroads in the mainstream rock market in the States in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

But unless you grew in a border city like Buffalo or Detroit circa the early 90’s chances are most of the great Canadian bands of the era just did not make it to your doorstep. Mention of bands such as The Tea Party, I Mother Earth, Our Lady Peace, The Headstones, The Matthew Good Band or The Tragically Hip (which incidentally is a Canadian rock institution) may draw a spark of recognition but more often than not would elicit a puzzled look.

Canadian rock radio has always taken care of their own. And occasionally a band with Maple Leaf lineage would become big in the American Charts. The Crash Test Dummies hit big with “Mm, Mm, Mm” as did Finger Eleven with “The One Thing” (oddly enough the success came after a name change from the provocative and humorous Rainbow Butt Monkeys)

Most American cities have fertile local rock scenes. In most cases, local rock radio ignores local music unless it escapes the shackles of the “local heroes” tag.

But great local bands out of Toronto and Southern Ontario were always heavily featured on the local FM outlets. They all had a unique sound. And they were all good.

The Tea Party had an eclectic hard rock sound that was part Kashmir, part Doors and part industrial. I Mother Earth was hard rock with a funk vibe and a unique fixation on percussion. Our Lady Peace relied on the unique voice of Raine Maida and hard charging, up-tempo songs. The Headstones were like a bar band made good, with the occasional dash or quirkiness. Matthew Good wrote in a unique voice that veered from radio ready alternative rock to more expansive compositions.

Finally, maybe the greatest band many people have never heard of, The Tragically Hip. This is a band that can sell out an arena in Buffalo, but will play for 1000 people 4 hours south of the border. Dan Ackroyd got them a plum spot on Saturday Night Live back in 1995, but alas, too many of us Americans were not ready for them. Tragically (no pun intended), their charismatic lead singer, Gord Downie, has been recently diagnosed with brain cancer and their future is very much in doubt.

For those interested, please see the below list for some recommendations on what is worth listening to. Believe me, if you have never heard of these bands before, you are in for one of the greatest musical pleasure a true music fan can experience. Finding something you had missed on the first pass

The Tea Party “Fire In The Head”

The Tea Party “Save Me”

The Tea Party “Touch”

I Mother Earth “Rain Will Fall”

I Mother Earth “Used To Be Alright”

I Mother Earth “Earth, Sky & C.”

Our Lady Peace “Starseed”

Our Lady Peace “Birdman”

Our Lady Peace “Clumsy”

The Headstones “Three Angels”

The Headstones “Tweeter & The Monkey Man”

The Headstones “When Something Stands For Nothing”

Matthew Good Band “Everything Is Automatic”

Matthew Good Band “Man Of Action”

Matthew Good Band “Hello Time Bomb”

The Tragically Hip “Little Bones”

The Tragically Hip “Courage”

The Traqically Hip “Scared”

Search out and ye shall be rewarded!


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