Music Rules: The years certainly have gone by…

Two thoughts on Canada Day, 2020:

In one of his many collections of essays, Canadian humourist Eric Nicol mused about what it means to be a Canadian.  He wrote that a Canadian citizenship document would probably say:

“This is to certify I am not an American.” 

I’m not much of a nationalist or flag waver, so that sums me up pretty well.  We can’t even do controversy well, like the Canadian ambassador to Russia allegedly “interfering” with Russia’s attempt to ban marriage equality.

One of the few things I am nationalistic about is music.  Most Canadian music doesn’t travel well because of Canadian Content laws, or CanCon (which will turn 50 years old in 2021).  The laws forced record companies to develop Canadian acts, which created multiple generations of Canadian music.  But at the same time, the US, UK and other places said, “They’re only on Canadian radio because of CanCon, not because they’re any good.”  Their loss.  (Except France, which was happy to have Quebecois artists.)

A year before CanCon, Mashmakhan’s “As The Years Go By” was released in summer 1970, fifty years ago.  It was a #1 hit in Canada in August 1970, a Top 40 in the US, and went platinum in several countries, a rarity for any singles in that era, let alone for a Canadian group. It wasn’t number 1 on Dominion Day (what is now Canada Day), but this is close enough.

As summer ends, though, kidding goes out the window when I talk about a darker event in Canada’s history.


  1. blf says

    Except France, which was happy to have Quebecois artists.

    Possibly because “most French pop music is shite” — as told to me by several of my colleagues here in France. I forget the details of the law, but there is a law saying some percentage of the music on French radio stations mush be French(? in French? performed by French-based bands?).

    I live in a Mediterranean coastal village in S.France. Amusingly, a nearby bar puts on live music once a week (sometimes more often, especially during the summer). Almost always, the bands are “pop cover bands” (rarely anything original and even more rarely any band anyone’s ever heard of (but that can be rather good)) — and they almost invariably sing mostly in English. The repertoires aren’t all that varied, and the next time I hear U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday belted out without context or feeling / understanding of the horrific event it’s about, I may go Librarian.

    • says

      AW came out in late spring 1970. I always hated it, so I didn’t list it.

      Bachman’s later work is far more interesting (“TCB”, “Blue Collar”, “Looking Out For No. 1” with its Lenny Breau influenced guitars).

      • Rob Grigjanis says

        For me, the best of The Guess Who was about the synergy between Cummings and Randy Bachman. Some of Bachman’s work after leaving the band was OK, but most memorable to me was his obvious little cheap shot at Yes, with BTO’s Not Fragile. Not a bad album (I bought it for my then girlfriend on her birthday), but sort of like an 18th century composer writing something called Not The Goldberg Variations. A bit amusing, and a bit puzzling. In Bachman’s case, maybe a bit of macho rockbro posturing?

  2. Numenaster says

    Thank you Rob for posting that link. I am an AW who was alive in 1970 and yet I don’t think I’ve ever heard the acoustic intro before.

    And as long as Rush (and Triumph!) are remembered, Canada’s place in music history is safe.

    • says

      Meh. Most of the best Canadian artists never made it abroad. For anyone reading, look up Rough Trade, Ian Thomas, Sloan, Blue Rodeo, Headstones, Northern Pikes, Mitsou, Huevos Rancheros, The Odds, Art Bergmann, David Wilcox, The Grapes of Wrath, just to name a few. Martha and the Muffins, Frank Marino, Voivod, Men Without Hats, Red Rider, Shadowy Men and some others had limited international success but many hits at home. Others are famous internationally as songwriters and producers like Aldo Nova, Bob Rock, Eddie Schwartz (e.g. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”). As mentioned, other countries’ loss.

      Funny thing: Some of the biggest international Canadian artists happened before CanCon (e.g. The Diamonds, Jack Scott, Buffy Sainte Marie, among others). It doesn’t prove Canadian music was discriminated against because of CanCon, but….