Just because I've never heard of 'The Dishes' shouldn't automatically disqualify them from a place in a documentary about Canadian popular music. An album by a band called 'Simply Saucer' beat out Trooper in Bob Mersereau's 'Top 100 Canadian Albums' book (they were #36 we were #60) and I'd never heard of them either. And despite the fact that I remember 'Martha and the Muffins' as a one-hit-wonder, their web site currently lists a total of 10 albums. So, really, what do I know? I have great sympathy for the producers of the two-part CBC documentary 'This Beat Goes On'. A truly comprehensive history of Canada's pop music would require several full days to present. The two episodes of TBGO, covering the 1970's, clocked in at two hours, minus commercials.
And, like Roy MacGregor said about our job as judges for the CBC's 'Seven Wonders of Canada' program - beyond all other considerations, a show of this nature needs to be "geographically correct". Considering writer Nicholas Jennings also wrote the astonishingly Toronto-centric 'Before the Goldrush' about the supposed genesis of the Canadian music scene, I was surprised and happy to see so much western-Canadian content. I was particularly impressed with the time and attention lavished on me, and my band.
Nonetheless, I'm still strangely unsatisfied with what will now stand as trusted documentation of the crazy Canadian music scene.
For one thing, I want you to know that the seventies Canadian music scene was a lot of fun. With only a few exceptions, I didn't get that sense from the show. It was low-key, scholarly and, forgive me Jian et al, a bit dull.
More important to me though is the fact that Canadian-made music is not the only music we Canadians listen to! Isolating Canadian hits from the mosaic of American and British music of the day is akin to presenting Van Halen's brown M&Ms as a full pack of candy. The constantly buzzing interaction of Canadian writers and performers with the outstanding music coming at us from the US and England was part of the unfolding thrill of what was happening here. Our music did not take seed and grow in the cultural vacuum that the documentary suggests by it's omissions. My song, "Two For the Show" only reached number two on the Canadian charts because a Paul McCartney song held on stubbornly at number one. That was the world we Canadian artists came up in.
I also have two petty quibbles:
I understand and applaud the doc's nod to the Quebec music scene but do not understand the omission of Montreal's Michel Pagliaro - the first Canadian artist to score top 40 hits on both the anglophone and francophone pop charts in Canada. (Last year Pag received the 'Governor General's Performing Arts Award', Canada's most prestigious artistic honour). His "What the Hell I Got" was one of my favourite songs in 1975, and still stands up well: (please forgive the total uselessness of this video)
And finally, regarding the story that Randy Bachman tells on the show about the pizza boy playing the piano part on "Takin' Care of Business": it's not true. I was there. The piano part was played by Seattle's Norman Durkee - a professional musician who deserves the credit for his deftly performed and rollicking track.