The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 958: The Roots of the 90s CanRock explosion

There was a time in this country when Canadians didn’t really care about Canadian music.

No, wait. Let’s start over.

There was a time in this country when Canadians didn’t like Canadian music and did whatever they could to avoid, ignore, and pretend it didn’t matter or even exist. Yeah, that’s more accurate.

There was one exception this rule: If a Canadian artists somehow miraculously received some kind attention (read: validation) from outside the country–preferably in the United States–then suddenly they were paying attention to at home.

It was a mix of insecurity and what I believe to be Canada’s two unofficial mottos: (1) “Who do you think you are?” And (2) Why can’t you be happy with what you have?”

That’s harsh but true. And for years, talented, ambitious flowed south across the border to seek their fortune in America. Paul Anka. Neil Young. Joni Mitchell. John Kay.

There were those who chose to remain in Canada while still having international success. Gordon Lightfoot is among that number. The Guess Who and BTO are two more. But they weren’t really fully accepted at home until they had a hit in America. Suddenly, our attitude swung 180 degrees. “Them? That successful band on the Billboard charts and American Bandstand? Yeah, they’re one of ours! Go Canada go!”

This is the way it was for several decades. It was a frustrating situation for countless Canadian musicians.

But thing things started to warm up a bit in the 1980s. By the time the 90s arrived, attitudes towards homegrown talent had swung completely in the other direction. Not only were Canadian music fans loving Canadian bands, Canadian music was being heard all over the world.

Wait. Let’s try that again. I meant to say that Canadian music was in demand all over the world.

Some have called this the Great CanRock Revolution of the 1990s. It. Changed. Everything. And here’s how it started.

Songs heard on this show:

  • Our Lady Peace, Starseed
  • Martha and the Muffins, Echo Beach
  • Chalk Circle, April Fool
  • Tragically Hip, Little Bones
  • Tragically Hip, She Didn’t Know (Live)
  • Sloan, Underwhelmed
  • I Mother Earth, Not Quite Sonic
  • Billy Talent, River Below

Here’s Eric Wilhite’s playlist.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s, and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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