#471: Canadian Rawk


GETTING MORE TALE #471: Canadian Rawk

What do you think of when you read the words “Canadian rock”?  Perhaps you imagine the vocal shrieks and drum thrills of Rush?  If you have a negative impression of Canadian music, no doubt your mind drifts to the sultry sounds of Nickelback.  Landmark artists from the golden age that you know would include Neil Young, the Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Joni Mitchell, Steppenwolf and countless more.

Canada has always had an inferiority complex when it comes to our southern neighbours, the Americans.  In the music world, this is manifested in “CanCon”.  Simply put, Canadian radio broadcasters must play at least 40% Canadian content.  Starting in 1968, fears that American artists would flood our airwaves resulted in the first CanCon rules.  If you have ever bought a Canadian CD, perhaps you have seen the letters MAPL on the back.  MAPL is an acronym that determines if content does indeed qualify as Canadian.


M:  Music.  Did a Canadian write the tune?
A:  Artist.  Is the primary artist a citizen of the Great White North?
P:  Performance.  Was the recording made in Canadian, in a Canadian studio?  Or for live albums, was the concert on Canadian soil?
L:  Lyrics.  Separate from the music qualifier, this determines if the lyrics were written by a Canadian.

Controversy erupted in 1991.  Bryan Adams had the biggest record of his career, Waking Up the Neighbors, which was co-written by Robert John “Mutt” Lang and recorded overseas.  Under the MAPL rules (since tweaked to avoid this situation), Adams did not qualify as CanCon.  His manager Bruce Allen was quite vocal against these rules.  Allen was never one to mince words, but he sparked a discussion on CanCon rules and how they ultimately hurt Canadian artists.  Flooding the airwaves with Canadian songs that weren’t that good was one issue commonly discussed. Another was that some international artists qualified for CanCon by recording in Canada with some of our most in-demand hit-makers such as Jim Vallance or Bruce Fairbairn.   Finally, these rules implied a lack of confidence in the strength of our own music.

Some feel that there is a stigma in being Canadian.   Though controversial, some feel there is such thing as a “Canadian sound”.  While this is obviously not universal, I do think there is something to it.  There is a commonality in Canadian bands that defies description.  To my ears, the Tragically Hip sound Canadian.  BTO and the Guess Who sound Canadian.  So does Bryan Adams.  I can’t explain it nor do I want to open that can of worms.  I think the roots of Canadian rock, going back to Neil Young and the Guess Who, are basic folksy traditional origins.  I think this has somehow been passed on in our DNA.  This is not always considered a good thing.  The alternative rock band I Mother Earth put out their debut album Dig in 1993, utilizing Mike Clink as producer and hoping to break open in the American market.  They were hyped as “the next Jane’s Addition”, but they did not want to be openly identified as Canadian in promo materials.  They felt that there was indeed a Canadian stigma and they would have more success if their citizenship wasn’t brought up.  M.E.A.T Magazine covered this story but were firmly in the pro-Canadian camp.

Here at mikeladano.com, we don’t have to follow CanCon rules, but Canadian content has dominated regardless.  I believe that our music is strong enough to stand proudly on its own.  We have so much talent in this country.  So many incredible songs have emerged from the frozen tundra.  Countless incredible, under-appreciated, creative artists:  VoiVod, Paul MacLeod, Sloan, Death From Above 1979, Blue Rodeo, Strapping Young Lad, the Trews, Sarah Harmer, Big Sugar…the list truly is endless because great new performers emerge every day.  When I worked at the old Record Store, we were fiercely proud Canadians.  We put a little Canadian flag sticker on the header cards of every Canadian artist.  A lot of customers would say, “I didn’t know that singer was Canadian!”

This week, join me each day for a close look  at some good Canadian Rawk albums that you may have missed over the years.  Trust me, you do not want to miss these reviews or you may miss a future favourite record.  Grab a Timmies or a wobbly pop and get ready to rock!



        1. I think it’s time to watch Blue Velvet again. It’s been a long time, but I still remember how awesome Dennis Hopper was. Can’t believe it’s been almost 6 years since he died.


  1. I know the Australian band The Lazys that I posted about got CanCon points for having Canadian co-writers and producers. Don’t get me wrong, I love that band, and am glad it is played here, but part of me feels bad for the thousands of Canadian bands that never get played on the radio. Please do not get me started about CANCON. I could ramble on for hours about the fact that it is complete and utter bullshit, that helps bands that have already made their millions and ignores the bands that can barely afford gas to get to the next show.
    I may not agree with the link below, but it’s kind of funny


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well that explains one reason why The Lazy’s are getting so much airplay right now. I like them too. More cowbell, man.

      Yup, radio stations can happily lean on Bryan Adams or Nickelback instead of playing tunes from the four albums I’m highlighting this week. Their loss….


  2. I agree that Canadian artists don’t get the respect they deserve, Anvil comes to mind here. I shall look forward to reading your posts and not too far down the road, I will be revealing my favourite Canadian artist.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. I think every new band should watch it. It’s not all glamorous.

          My brother and I saw it at the theatre when it came out.

          From what I can remember it was awesome.
          It is time to see it again.

          I am also tempted to get their new album. I think it comes out very soon.

          Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree, it is awesome and that anyone who is serious about music should watch it. I am hoping they will return to play Bloodstock this year. Watching the film made me go out and buy This is Thirteen and I am tempted to buy the new one.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I bet, like Helix, the newest album is one of their best.

          My brother and his family travelled halfway across Canada to see AC\DC a few years back, and Anvil opened.

          I still remember way back in my parents house listening to the song Metal on Metal when it first came on the radio before the album came out. My ears perked up. “WHO IS THAT?”

          Liked by 2 people

        2. I am not sure. I think Anvil may have hit a high mark with Juggernaut of Justice. But I did not like Hope In Hell nearly as much. I’d love to see them do the best albums of their lives this time…but I think they already did.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. Canadian week? Haha man, I’d need three months. I’ll be curious to see what you choose!

    You’re right, there’s something about some of it that just sounds like it came from here. The Hip is easy, they sing about places and events in this country all the time.

    Also, Sloan under-appreciated? Not by this guy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Sloan should be a lot bigger. Ah well, at least we got the albums!

      I just want to be clear though — I didn’t choose anything for this series. I had five posts all about Canadian bands and decided, “Hey, that’s a week!”


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