vernon_1997July 1st is Canada’s 146th birthday. And unlike Amerka’s Independence Day, ours is a true birthday. It was on that day in 1867 that Prime Minister and Scottish whiskey guzzling champ Sir John A. MacDonald spread his legs and shat out a proclamation declaring the Province of Canada Day FireworksCanada (Quebec and Ontario) plus New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to be, henceforth, bastard siblings.  History would record any number of schools named in his honour.

He politely asked Queen Vicky if we might be able to go out after dark by Victoriaourselves from that point on. She said sure but we needed to be home before the lights came on and, oh, could she still pilfer our pockets for tax dollars and send our citizens to war in the event that the British Empire required a couple of life rafts or mud runners in victory parades.

She stopped short of allowing us to call ourselves a country and so Canada became a Dominion – which is a collection of country-like attributes (trees, mountains, rivers, oceans and beer) masquerading as the Lizziereal deal. It would take until 1982 before Dominion Day was renamed Canada Day and we got a little lapel pin from Vicky’s third cousin, Queen Lizzie, which we wear when she or Prince Dumbo ears comes visiting on special occasions.

The French call it Fête du Canada. That’s during those special moments when they don’t have a poutine bowel obstruction and lower themselves to French Canadarecognize the holiday – if not the country. English Canada (originally led by that long-running tradition of British Conqueronialism) and French Canada (led by people who thought being French was cool as long they didn’t have to do it in France) have a long running feud that legend says began in 1451 following this conversation:

French languageThe feud carries on to this day with the French making it illegal to read or write English in Quebec while speaking it will earn you glazed looks and taunts behind your back when you leave – which you will because they really just don’t want you there. Chances are if you don’t go to Toronto instead, you’ll end up in Los Angeles – which is now recognized as the third largest Canadian city in North America…what with all our actors and musicians living there…permanently.

Of course, Canada also has two aboriginal populations who’ve been forced to live in Canada’s attic – or anywhere where the visiting guests from Mom’s steno pool won’t accidently get a look aboriginal dayat them…or ask them questions about why we’ve stolen their land and ghettoized everything about them. True north strong and free indeed! We have an embarrassing history of human rights (and fur seal) abuses and yet we’re considered ‘Peace Keepers’ in the world theatre. Qu-elle ironic. Thankfully, they have their own Aboriginal Day…and don’t need ours.

Despite our attempts to be unique, aspects like these make us very similar to our neighbours to the south (no, not the Mexicans…the nosey neighbours stealing our cable and Sports Illustrated’s from the mailbox). We like to drink – Canadian brewed beer brands specifically (and not those Marie-Philip Poulin, Kim St-Pierre and  Charline Labontepiss-water stateside ‘licensed’ recipes that the US rent from us and then tell us tastes like crap) and the more potent European and British toxins. We like sports – hockey being the top of the list.

couplewatchingtvWhere we differ is that we like winter and sex. And with hockey being top of the sporting pastime we can combine the two. Canadians are the World Doggie-Style champions of the world – which we perfected as a means of allowing both partners to watch Hockey Night in Canada simultaneously.

We also have our own music. Back in the 1970s we were often told that there was a Canadian “sound”. No one’s ever been able to define it…but you’ll know it when you hear it. Much of that ‘sound’ stemmed from the shaniatwaindesperate attempt by record labels and record producers here to emulate American and British hitmakers in the early 1970s as a means to satisfy the 1971 imposition of the Canadian Content regulations. In our pre-Nanny nanny-state the government slapped a 30% Canadian content notice on the airwaves of every radio station in the country with exceptions and diversions and wiggle room that allowed a Canadian making a cover version of a US hit to also get on the radio too.

Here for your dining and dancing pleasure are songs that remind many of us that we ARE Canadian.
[Special thanks to Kevin Shea for his straw poll on Facebook]

“Moody Manitoba Morning” – THE FIVE BELLS

The group that would change its name to The Bells and eventually hit pay dirt with a cover version of Ken Tobias’ “Stay Awhile” (the one with the orgasmically coquettish lead vocal by Jacki Ralph).

originally had a minor hit with Moody Manitoba Morning, Canadian folk singer-songwriter Rick Neufeld’s quintessential take on the prairies with this slice of folk pop.


Those in southern Ontario who’ve ever felt the need to escape the trap of Toronto’s suburban sprawl and run the Muskoka backroads and rural byways to get to the cottage have probably passed through Bobcaygeon a time or two. Or a million other towns just like it. These places are time capsules. Innocent people. Innocent values. Pre-1960s Canada…when communities grew glacially – if at all. Be sure to stop on the quiet country roads, get out of your car and stare at the star-painted sky. There’s no other view like it.

“Running Back To Saskatoon” – THE GUESS WHO

Having confounded, confused and pissed off many Americans with “American Woman”, the Guess Who never let international fame overshadow their musical and cultural roots. Though they were born and bred in Winnipeg, the Guess Who paid tribute to another prairie town who’ve never gotten the recognition they so rightly deserve. During their four year reunion stint in the early 2000’s, The Guess Who named their tour “Running Back Through Canada”.

“Canadian Railroad Trilogy” – GORDON LIGHTFOOT

Lightfoot has spent a career painting aural canvases with historic songs about real people, places and events. Though “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” stands as one of the most widely recognized “Canadian” songs of all time, his “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” speaks of Canada as a nation – from its birth to its contemporary paradigm.

“Hollis & Morris” – THE TREWS

Winnipeg has Portage & Main, Toronto has Yonge & Dundas, and The Trews have Hollis & Morris in Halifax, Nova Scotia as their metaphorical crossroads:
Standing on the corner of Hollis and Morris street
It’s the evil other half I need
Won’t you send me a saint or waitress and drink on my tab

“Coldest Night of the Year” – BRUCE COCKBURN

Canadians and cold weather are often synonymous but no one has nailed the true feeling of our winter (outside of the context of Christmas music) quite the way Cockburn did with “Coldest Night of the Year”. He even name checks Scarborough, Ontario specifically in this ode to chilly Canadian evenings.

“CA-NA-DA” – Bobby Gimby

Stompin’ Tom Connors may have been a Canadian musical troubadour, but Bobby Gimby was the Pied Piper who entertained millions of Canadian children from pre-school to high school with his modern nursery rhymes. His most memorable moment, however, was his made-to-order jingle honouring Canada’s 100th anniversary in 1967. Actor Victor Garber’s pop vocal group Sugar Shoppe would also do a psych version for hippies as well.

“Life’s A Canadian Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)” – JAIMIE VERNON

Finally, here’s a retool of Reunion’s 1973 hit “Life Is A Rock” as “Life’s A CANADIAN Rock”. Lyrics & Vocals by Jaimie Vernon (performed, produced and arranged by Brian Gagnon) Ed. Note: Mr Vernon is too humble to mention this, but this piece of music is not only a work of sizeable knowledge and research, but a fine example of phraseology, lyrical resonance, and hard-to-match enunciation and meter. Jaimie also has a formidable body of original songs, and is one of the most underrated songwriters Canada has ever produced. He is a peer, and writes songs I appreciate and admire. This Canadianized version of an American hit, in my opinion, far surpasses the original.

B.B. Gabor and The Extras
Major Hooples and Wes Dakus
Andy Kim and Anka Pauly
Edward has a Bearfoot “Molly”
Got “The Buzz” out of Haywire
Sarah M’s “Into The Fire”
Guy Lombardo, Big Band honcho
El Mocambo in Toronto
Boogie, Oogie, Danca’
And Wood Holly be the new romancer
Burton Cummings, Bachman Randy
The Hip is Tragically still standing
Harmonium and Charlesbois
Pagliaro’s got “Rainshowers”
Allen Chad and Allan Barry
Junkhouse, Uzeb, Doucette Jerry
Now which way did Billy go?
Terry Jacks is seasonal

Life’s a Canadian Rock but the radio rolled me
Gotta turn it up louder
So my DJ told me
Life’s a Canadian Rock but the radio rolled me
At the end of my rainbow…ride
Lies a golden oldie.

FM phasors are just stunning
To Saskatoon the Guess Who’s running
Reo, Sparton in the ’50s
Red Leaf, Roman, in the ’60’s
Gisele MacKenzie, I behold her
The Metal Queen’s a jazz reformer
Colin James and Colin Linden
Lords of London weren’t from Britain
Kon Kan, Jerry Jerry, Bill & Bills, and Dave with Gary
Long John Baldry, Boogie Woogie
B.N.L. and Moxus Froovy
Luke’s Apostles in the “Market”
Poor “Insensitive” Jann Arden
After Four, you know, It’s Happenin’
Lado and PeteTraynor’s amping
Dave The Rave, a Teenage Head
The Rebels aren’t Forgotten yet
54 can count to 40
Hawkins Robin, Ron and Ronnie
Davies Frank and Yorke so Ritchie
Downchild Blues’s Rick and Donnie
Sass & Marc & Keven Jordan
Mitchell Kim and Mitchell Joni
Gordon Lightfoot, Murray Anne
Neil Young worked with Stills & Crosby
Frank Marino, Bryan Adams
Carole Pope, Marshall Amanda
Her heart goes on Dion Celine
Cockburn finally heard his tree
Alanis says “You Outta Know”
“Sweet Thing” is a “True Life Hero”
KD’s, Kick Axe, Helix, Anvil
Stompin’ Tom’s a spud potato
Bullseye and the Sonic Unyon
Bongobeat and all the others
…Roger Ashby’s oldies
[Little Darlin’….ooh…ooh….Little Darlin’]
Listen! Remember!
They’re playing CanCon
Moxy and Santers, a Honeymoon Suite talkin’
A Foot In Coldwater then they tried walkin’
[Make Me Do Anything you want….Signs, Signs, everywhere a sign]
Esquires, Townsmen, Ottawa got Staccato’d
And then we’ll have to Rush into “The Spirit Of Radio”
Steppenwolf rock and roll
Gino’s got a lot of soul
Peter Foldy, Segarini
Rheostatics’ Dave Bidini
April Wine, BTO, Loverboy, Blue Rodeo
[Oh, What A Feeling…what a rush]
Stampeders, Big Sugar
Ian & Sylvia
Kd lang,Terri Clark
Paul Brandt, Skylark
Nickelback, Arcade Fire
Alannah Myles and Emm Gryner
Harem Scarem, Grapes of Wrath
The Beau Marks clapped their hands
Hank Snow, Wilf Carter
Gordie Tapp & Marty Butler
Abe’s Children, Seb Agnello
Little Caesar & The Consuls
[Hang on sloopy, sloopy hang on]
Garth, Rick, Levon & Robbie
Ian Thomas, Doug McKenzie
Dream Warriors, Maestro, Satellites and LAZO
Walt & Stan and the Crash Test Junkies
Graham, Cochrane, Hunter….
They’re all Tommy’s
[CA-NA-DA….1 little, 2 little, 3 Canadians….we love you]

Send your CDs to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA


Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com.

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

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