Listening to NPR’s All Songs Considered in the car, Stacy and I somehow got on to the topic of the Canadian Rock Pantheon. When it first came up, I thought the list would be long, but in our conversation, only two entrants qualified in my mind: Rush and The Guess Who. Stacy wanted to add The Tragically Hip, but I’m wary of including a band that had no significant uptake south of the border. We also dismissed the singer-songwriter folkies (e.g., Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen) as, well, not rock. We considered Neil Young, but while Canadian, pretty much his entire meaningful career existed in the United States.
On Twitter, I posed the question “Who is in the Canadian Rock Pantheon? Obvi, Rush and The Guess Who. Whom else? Neil Young? BTO? The Hip? Bryan Adams?” For me, to be Canadian Rock Pantheon, the band/person must have: recorded primarily in Canada; played guitar-driven rock; and had a lasting influence and presence. The latter criteria rules out a number of indie bands (such as Arcade Fire, New Pornographers) — to be in a pantheon requires the test of time. Given the criteria, and the feedback I got from Twitter, this is what I believe to be Canadian Rock Pantheon:
- The Guess Who
- Bachman Turner Overdrive
- The Band (this is a tough one, as much success came after moving to the States, but they definitely established themselves while up north)
- Bryan Adams(it amuses me how no one commented about him on Twitter)
And, for now, that’s it. Steppenwolf is disqualified as they didn’t become that band until the members had moved to the US. Alanis Morrissette has not demonstrated any meaningful longevity. Blue Rodeo and Bruce Cockburn have no presence south of the border. Loverboy is simply too one-hit-wonder. After seeing Anvil! The Story of Anvil, I’d consider them as a kind of special entrant given their awesome influence on an entire subgenre of rock.
I’m surprised at how few bands made it into the pantheon. The population of Canada 1960-2000 tracks very closely to the population of California in that time, yet in that time California has had many more Pantheon bands (off the top of my head: The Beach Boys, The Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Eagles, The Byrds, Metallica, Green Day (i think they qualify already) (and I’m sure these lists: Musical Groups from Los Angeles and Musical Groups from San Francisco would turn up many more.