These days, Canadian acts like Arcade Fire, Tegan and Sara, and Drake have achieved worldwide fame, but their success rests on a foundation of bands who built up Canada's music industry one cross-country tour at a time, often while toiling away in undeserved obscurity. These books are a good place to start if you'd like to learn more about Canada's musical pioneers.
Who better to tell the story of Canadian rock than Dave Bidini, singer, songwriter and guitarist for the late, lamented Rheostatics? On A Cold Road doubles as a diary of the Rheostatics' 1996 cross-Canada tour opening for The Tragically Hip and a collection of wild anecdotes about Canadian rock pioneers like The Guess Who and April Wine (who once almost froze to death when their tour van broke down in rural Quebec). In Writing Gordon Lightfoot he details the Canadian folk icon's performance at the 1972 Mariposa Folk Festival, where fellow legends Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell also made appearances.
Musical influence between Canada and the United States is often assumed to be a one-way street, but Whispering Pines shows how Canadian country, folk and rock acts blazed their own trails and impacted the musical scene south of the border.
Listing the top 100 Canadian singles and albums is truly an impossible task, but these two volumes do a pretty good job of it. As you leaf through these two beautifully-illustrated volumes you'll learn more about the songs and albums you love and marvel at the diversity of Canada's musical stars over the decades.
These two books offer a more detailed look at different aspects of the story. Canuck Rock is an ambitious overview of Canadian musical history from the 1950s to the 21st century, with an emphasis on how the infamous Canadian content laws helped shape popular tastes and changed the industry forever. Making The Scene shines a spotlight on Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood, which during the 1960s and early '70s was a hotbed of musical creativity, political activism and cultural change.
When people think of punk music it's usually England or the U.S. that come to mind, but Canada had an equally vibrant scene during the late '70s and early '80s. Treat Me Like Dirt and Trouble In The Camera Club (a photographic memoir) are safety-pins-and-all looks at the Toronto punk community, while Perfect Youth widens the focus to the rest of the country, from Moncton's The Robins to Vancouver legends D.O.A..
By the mid-'80s, the Canadian music industry had fallen into a bit of a rut. This raucous volume tells the story of how hundreds of bands, from superstars who packed arenas and stadiums to local heroes who rocked garages and basement parties, laid the groundwork for a fresh new chapter in Canadian musical history.