When I moved to Canada years ago, I was surprised to hear a large number of songs on the classic rock radio station that I had never heard before. And they were good songs. Definitely songs to rival the 70’s rock songs that were and still are the staple of radio in the U.S.
Most of these songs were hits in Canada. Very few of them filtered south of the border for some reason. Probably for a variety of reasons, actually – depending on the artist and song.
Also, due to the Canadian Content law (CanCon), radio stations were required to play a certain amount of Canadian music, which gave these artists more exposure than they may have gotten without CanCon.
Here’s a few of them.
Pagliaro– “Lovin'” You Ain’t Easy” (1971)
A veteran of many Montreal bands of the 1960’s, Michel Pagliaro decided to go solo by the end of that decade. After a couple of French-language singles, a 1971 record deal with Toronto’s Much Records exposed him to the English-speaking provinces and he soon struck gold with the power-pop “Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy” and “Some Sing Some Dance“. His later singles were primarily in French as his popularity shrunk back to Quebec-size.
Chilliwack– “Fly at Night” (1977)
Vocalist/guitarist Bill Henderson founded Chilliwack, named after the town in the band’s British Columbia home province. Their first album was released in 1970 and by 1977 the band found themselves signed to Vancouver’s Mushroom Records (also home to Heart). The ensuing album, Dreams, Dreams, Dreams, spawned four hit singles in Canada, including “Fly At Night” (not to be confused with “Fly By Night” by fellow Canadians Rush). By the mid 1980’s, bad luck with record labels and band personnel turnover spelled the end for Chilliwack, though Henderson would later find success as a producer. He currently tours with a new version of the band.
A Foot in Cold Water– “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” (1972)
A Foot in Cold Water was formed from the ashes of of 1960’s Ontario-based prog-rock group Nucleus and hard rock group Leather. Their label, Daffodil Records, gave the group its name, an old English expression for ‘bad luck’. 1972’s “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” was a moderate hit. Re-released in shortened form in 1974, though, the song hit the Canadian top 10. Signing to Anthem Records soon after proved to be a miscalculation as Anthem focused its energies on Rush, its star act, and Foot was left out in the cold.
Ian Thomas– “Painted Ladies” (1973)
Ian Thomas had been in the music business a long time before scoring a hit. Part of a variety of folk groups in the 1960’s, he was working as a theater manager in his hometown of Hamilton, ON when he signed a record deal in 1973. “Painted Ladies”, from his first solo album, sounded almost like an outtake from an America album and was a major hit, even charting in the U.S. (though not as high as in Canada, where it’s still a much played song today). His brother Dave Thomas gained fame as a regular on comedy show SCTV and as Doug McKenzie on the spin-off “Bob and Doug McKenzie’s The Great White North.” Geddy Lee of Rush sang on the Bob and Doug McKenzie record album, showing that in Canada, everybody was connected to Rush in some way in the 70’s and 80’s.
Ian Thomas still performs and is an author and actor, as well.