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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Forgotten Songs of the Canadian Top 40

Happy Day Before Canada Day, everyone!

And on this, the last day of June, I've decided that I'm going to have a little bit of fun with this Sunday Jukebox for today.

As you well know, I've decided to make this Canadian holiday long weekend completely Canadian themed. And, when I was looking back at all of the Canadian artists who have graced their singles on the Billboard charts, I really had a difficult time choosing just one artist to focus on.

I mean, we have Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot, Paul Anka, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Michael Buble, Joni Mitchell, Shania Twain, Sarah McLachlan, Avril Lavigne, Burton Cummings, and k.d. lang, just to name a few. And, certainly every single artist I have mentioned here deserves their place in Canadian music history from Mitchell's “Big Yellow Taxi” and Murray's “Snowbird” to lang's “Constant Cravings” and Lavigne's “Complicated”.

But what about all of those Canadian artists who were more or less one-hit wonders? Or what about Canadian artists who have had several singles hit the top ten in Canada, but only managed a couple of Top 40 singles in the United States? Or how about Canadian artists who eventually became successes in the United States, but released several albums in Canada that were rarely heard outside of Ontario and Alberta?

Well, this blog entry is for all of you. Because for this edition of the Sunday Jukebox, I've selected songs and artists that were born and bred here in Canada that you may have forgotten. In the case of a couple of these songs, the songs were recorded before these Canadian singers became huge stars.

But in all cases, these songs are the Forgotten Songs of the Canadian Top 40.

I'll be completely honest with you though. This list will mostly be featuring songs from the 1980s because many of these songs I remember hearing on the radio throughout my childhood. You have been warned.

So, let's begin with the chronological order.

ECHO BEACH – Martha & The Muffins (1980)

Yes, believe it or not, there was a group in Canada known as “Martha & The Muffins”. Not exactly the most edgy of names out there, but the group did score a huge hit with their 1980 single “Echo Beach”. The group was founded by David Millar, Mark Gane, Tim Gane, Martha Johnson, and Carl Finkle, and the song “Echo Beach” was contrary to what some people thought, is not based on a real geographical location. Instead, it was meant to be a 'frame of mind' to escape the mundane aspects of life while on the job. It was written by Mark Gane at a time before he joined “Martha and the Muffins” when he worked a job checking sheets of wallpaper for printing errors.

No wonder his mind drifted to a place where he spent happier times.

Anyway, the song was so successful that it went gold status in October 1980, and it won a Juno Award that same year for Single of the Year. Unfortunately, the band's success following “Echo Beach” trailed off just a few years later, with the band's last Top 30 hit charting in 1986 with “Song in My Head”. But “Echo Beach” will always be a permanent reminder of the band's success.

MAKING IT WORK – Doug and the Slugs (1983)

Sadly, the band Doug and the Slugs lost its heart and soul in October 2004 when band founder Doug Bennett passed away from an undisclosed illness just days before his fifty-third birthday. But Doug's legacy will forever live on with this 1983 single, which was nominated for a Juno Award in 1983.

You have to admit that the song is a nice and catchy song with a great message behind it. Sometimes you have situations in which things might seem incredibly challenging, but you just have to find a way to keep your cool and make it work, no matter what.

That's the reason why I chose this song to feature by this band, even though “Who Knows How To Make Love Stay” was a slightly bigger hit. Both did make the Canadian Top 30 though.

I WANT YOU BACK – Sherry Kean (1984)

Many of you probably have never heard of this singer before. I know I didn't know of her until I became a teenager in the 1990s. Back in those days, MuchMusic (think MTV for Canadians) used to play nothing but music videos, and one thing that the station did was have theme weekends in which all the music videos were linked to that theme.

This song was one that was always played on the 1980s themed weekends, and you have to admit that it is a rather catchy song. Unfortunately, it was Sherry's only pop hit on the Canadian charts, even though she did win a Juno Award in 1984 for Most Promising Female Vocalist.

She attempted a change of style in the late 1980s by reinventing herself as a country music artist, but has not put out any commercial releases since 1989.

KISS YOU WHEN IT'S DANGEROUS – Eight Seconds (1986)

If there was ever a song that could be described as the quintessential Canadian one-hit-wonder, one has to look no further than the Canadian band known as Eight Seconds.

Bet most of you have never heard of this band, have you? That's because their success on the Canadian charts was almost as long as the band name they chose for themselves.

But, darn it if their eight seconds of fame didn't make one stunning piece of pop music. This was a song that I heard a lot of when I was in my kindergarten years, and the song did help the band get a Juno nomination in 1987. By all accounts, the reason the band didn't seem to take off was due to management issues with their record company, which lead to the band's second album being released almost four years after 1986's “Almacantar”, which is a shame, because I think that they could have done a lot more with their music than they were given the chance to.

ANGEL IN MY POCKET – One to One (1986)

This group was made up of the duo of Leslie Howe and Louise Reny, and their 1985 album “Forward Your Emotions” was released in Canada at a time in which dance music was starting to become all the rage on music charts all over the world. And, the success of “Forward Your Emotions” lead to a couple of smash singles. One was “There Was a Time”, which peaked at #14, and the other was this single, which made it to #24 on the Canadian Charts AND #92 on the Billboard charts.

True story: My hometown's AM radio station (now known as 104.9 JRFM) was obsessed with this song, playing it at least four times a day well into the 1990s. I often joked at the time that this record was the only one that the radio station owned! But, I didn't care much. It was a decent song! And following the demise of the group in the early 1990s, Leslie Howe became a record producer, most notably producing the debut album for Alanis Morissette (which you'll hear a song from a little later in this entry).


Ah, Candi. These days, she's reportedly teaching music studies in the Toronto area, happily married to the drummer of her band, “Candi and the Backbeat”. But back in the days in which walkmans, Skip-Its, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were all the rage, this sweet faced teenager was making sweet, sweet music. I suppose that you could call Candi the Canadian Debbie Gibson.

Candi certainly did have quite a few singles charting in her native Canada. I can still remember hearing the songs “Under Your Spell” and “Love Makes No Promises” playing on the radio during my second and third grade years. But the reason why I chose to feature “Dancing Under a Latin Moon” in this space is twofold. First, it was the only one of Candi's singles to chart on the Billboard Charts, peaking at #68. And, secondly, I remember hearing this song playing in the background when I had my first ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl at a summer carnival. Funny how some songs can trigger such interesting and fond memories, huh?

EVERY LITTLE TEAR - Paul Janz (1990)

These days, he's working as a professor, but back in the days in which he had long hair and rocked it out, Paul Janz had quite the long list of hits.  The one above just happens to be one of my favourites by him.  And, don't quote me on this one, but the scenes filmed at the train station were likely filmed at Toronto's "Union Station".  Having been there many times in my childhood, I recognize some of the scenery.  I could be wrong, but still...there's something familiar about it.

WALK AWAY – Alanis Morissette (1991)

Alanis Morissette is probably one of the most famous artists to come out of Canada. Her 1995 album “Jagged Little Pill” was one of the highest-selling albums of the 1990s, and she is still touring and recording music today. But “Walk Away” was recorded during a time in which she had outgrown getting slimed on “You Can't Do That On Television”, but before Dave Coulier broke her heart and she penned the angst-filled single “You Oughta Know” (allegedly). This was the time period in which the seventeen-year-old from Ottawa was still going by Alanis.

Sure, the song only managed to peak at #35 on the Canadian charts. But the single did have future Friends star Matt LeBlanc in the role of Alanis' thoughtless boyfriend. And, it was featured in the soundtrack to the 1991 film “Problem Child 2”. But, yeah...seeing Alanis Morissette trying to be the next Paula Abdul is always entertaining.

JANE – Barenaked Ladies (1994)

Long before the days of “One Week”, “Pinch Me”, and the departure of long-time lead singer Steven Page, the band was recording dozens of singles in their native Canada, all of which did incredibly well. Of course, most of the singles that the Barenaked Ladies did were not really the most serious of songs. One talked about how they wanted someone to be their Yoko One (complete with Yoko Ono singing), another talked about all the things they would do if they had a million dollars, and another was about some girl named “Enid”.

And then there was “Jane”, a nice ballad that peaked at #3 on the Canadian charts. And, there's actually a funny story about how the title character was named. Apparently, songwriter Stephen Duffy was doing some brainstorming during a songwriting session and happened to be staring at a road map of Toronto, where his gaze happened upon the intersection of Jane and St. Clair.

Hence the creation of the character “Jane St. Clair”. Neat story, huh?

OOH IT'S KINDA CRAZY – soulDecision (1998)

Okay, so I'll make a confession here. On one of my days off, I went shopping at a store in town, and this song was playing on the loudspeaker. It was a song that I hadn't heard for a while, and it was also a song that I didn't exactly gel to when it first came out on the radio, but it reminded me of the time period between high school and college as it was playing on the radio during that time.

But, I should mention that this was during the song's second time on the charts. It was originally released in 1998, peaking just under the Canadian Top 40 charts. But when the song was re-released in 2000 following the success of the band's single “Faded”, the song rose up to #18 on the Canadian charts, and #26 on the Billboard charts.

And, to conclude this entry off...I have to post one more song.  One song that almost every Canadian should know.

Happy day before Canada Day, all!

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