Bill's Personal Choices: Canada's top 50 singles.
There are some great songs on the list, but "Four Strong Winds" as number 1??!! "Snowbird", that bland, vacuous, treacley, schmaltz at #19? "Life is a Highway"? Tell me, do you think anyone else ever thought of the highway as a metaphor for life? Or flogged "all night long" as a chorus? "Summer of '69"? An embarrassing rehash of Bob Seger's most obvious lyrics.
There was an obvious, alarming tendency to prostrate us all before the gods of international popular acceptance. So Sarah McLachlan had to be on the list, even though it's hard to think of a single song by her that was so outstanding that it deserved to finish ahead of, say, "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" written by Bruce Cockburn and performed by the Bare Naked Ladies. Or even fluff like Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi", which I can't believe even she herself took seriously.... ("Court and Spark" would have been a far more interesting choice.) And where, in heaven's name, are the Northern Pikes and Crash Test Dummies? Oh-- I get it. Didn't have any U.S. hits.
If you think "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" is so great (#6), tell me, when was the last time you actually listened to it?
And all those factories and businesses that the railroad brought to Canada-- "for the good of us all"?
It could have been worse. Celine Dionne and Walter Ostenak did not make the list, though Paul Anka did.
My number one is Neil Young's "Helpless", because it captures that resigned Canadian acceptance of over-arching doom, and its shadings of hopes and dreams-- so Un-American in it's denial of personal control. And it has one of the greatest lines ever, in Canadian music: "In my mind, I still need a place to go; all my changes were there".
"If I had a Million Dollars"-- is it a novelty tune like "Hockey Song"? Maybe. But it's also wittier and funnier and quintessentially Canadian-- who else would buy Kraft Dinner with their million dollars?
I have been listening to a replay of "The 50 Essential Tracks" of Canadian popular music on the CBC lately. This is a program from last spring which they are running again due to the lock-out.
I disagree with a fair number of songs on the list, and especially "The Hockey Song" by Stompin' Tom Conners, which is something like #13. Novelty songs do not belong on "Top 50" lists. They belong on juke-boxes in run-down restaurants in small northern Ontario towns.
I like "Four Strong Winds"-- it's a great song-- but not quite enough to put it into the top 15. It's straining under the weight of that kind of honorific.
I liked seeing "Echo Beach" up there, along with "The Weight" (both of which should have been higher).
Yesterday, Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown" came in somewhere in the top 20. Here are some of the lyrics:
I can see her lying back in her satin dress
In a room where yah do what yah don't confess
Sundown, you better take care
If I find you've been creeping 'round my back stairs
I can see her lookin' fast in her faded jeans
She's a hard-lovin' woman got me feelin' mean
And then he warns her again to stay away from his back stairs and his porch and his Juno awards.
Does this belong in anyone's top 25? How exactly do you look "fast" in your faded jeans?
I think I understand what happens to the career of a singer-songwriter. You start out trying to write the best damn songs you can, about real people you know, and real experiences you had, and you strive to say something fresh and original. So Gordon Lightfoot writes five or six genuinely interesting outstanding songs ("Early Morning Rain", "sit Down, Young Stranger", "Whispers of the North", and "That's What You Get for Lovin' Me") and a dozen or so pretty good songs. And then...
Then you become successful and famous. Everyone tells you you are great songwriter. And it's time for some new material. And you're strumming around on your guitar and you come up with a little riff and the word "Sundown" comes into your mind and you make it a chorus and then you add a few aimless verses and your producer adds some background instrumentation and vocals and presto, another hit.
Does Gordon Lightfoot actually know any "hard-lovin' " women who wear satin dresses and creep around his back stairs? I'll bet he doesn't. (I'll bet he also had no intention of slipping away on that "endless highway" either.) And what exactly does "hard-lovin'" mean? That she makes him pay up front?
This is the same woman The Guess Who ran into back in 1970:
Don't you start coming around my door
Don't want to see your shadow no more...
Come to think of it-- this woman probably moved on to Malibu where she ended up at party with Bob Dylan:
There's a woman on my lap, and she's
She's got white skin and assassin's eyes