(Pictured: Bryan Adams hangs out backstage, circa 1985.)
Here’s a chart from CILQ, an album-rock station in Toronto, dated May 18, 1985. There are some pretty familiar albums listed, and they contain songs that haven’t been off the radio since 1985: “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “Summer of ’69,” “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “The Boys of Summer.” And there’s also the stuff on the flip:
Strange Animal by Gowan (#4) and 2wo by Strange Advance (#15) are Canadian releases, which would help satisfy the government regulation that stations like CILQ must air a certain percentage of Canadian content each week. (So would the Bryan Adams album Reckless, sitting at #7.) Strange Animal contains “A Criminal Mind” and “(You’re a) Strange Animal,” both hit singles in Canada that got practically no action in the States. If either or both of them put you in mind of Styx, you won’t be surprised to learn that Lawrence Gowan has been a member of Styx since 1999. “We Run,” the big single from 2wo, is a lot easier to imagine on American radio circa 1985 than either of the Gowan singles.
Canadian content regulations would also have been satisfied by “Tears Are Not Enough,” a track from the We Are the World album (#3), which sounds pretty much exactly like “We Are the World.” Credited to Northern Lights, all of the prominent Canadians you can name are on it, from Adams, Gordon Lightfoot, and Anne Murray to Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Geddy Lee. Also on the album: a live recording of “Trapped” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, “4 the Tears in Your Eyes” by Prince (who thereby supported the USA for Africa benefit without appearing on “We Are the World”), and a live recording of “Trouble in Paradise” by Huey Lewis and the News.
Phil Collins is riding high on the chart with No Jacket Required (#2), but he’s also on Eric Clapton’s Behind the Sun (#10). The album is sometimes described as a collaboration between Clapton and Collins, which strikes me as not entirely accurate. Phil is one of four listed producers and is credited as a musician on six of the 11 tracks, as well as co-writer on one. The lone single on the album, “Forever Man,” is nothing special.
Van Morrison, like the shark that has to keep swimming or it will die, is on the chart with his 15th album, A Sense of Wonder (#17). As big a Van fan as I am, his mid-80s albums blur all together. This is the one with the poets: he name-checks Arthur Rimbaud (on “Tore Down a la Rimbaud”) and got sued by the estate of W. B. Yeats for setting one of Yeats’ poems, Crazy Jane on God, to music. (The recording was withdrawn in 1985 but restored on the 2008 reissue.)
Two EPs are on the CILQ chart. David Lee Roth’s Crazy From the Heat (#6) contains four tracks, including the hit singles “California Girls” and “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody.” I didn’t like “California Girls” at all until it dawned on me that Diamond Dave is doing parodies rather than covers. U2’s The Unforgettable Fire is listed on the CILQ chart as a mini-LP (#19); as best I can tell, it was a Canadian-only release with three tracks that were unavailable on the full-length release of The Unforgettable Fire, as well as one live track and a remix. If you know anything about it, please tell the whole class in the comments.
If I had to pick one album from this chart to listen to right now, start to finish, it would be John Fogerty’s Centerfield (#5). I am not sure why this album doesn’t get more love when people are listing the best albums of the 80s. Maybe it’s because it sounds like something that could have come out in 1974. But the three singles still sound great, as does the nostalgic “I Saw It on TV.”
In the summer of 1985, I was program director of a Top 40 station, and it was glorious. I’m not listening to much of this music nowadays, but I could never forget how it sounded.
3 thoughts on “And Now, Some Canadian Content”
A sort of affirmative action for music. I visited Canada several times as a teen in the 70’s. The radio was god-awful. I didn’t know why until much later.
I have an Austrian-released 5-song Single/EP called The Unforgettable Fire. Tracks are 1. The Three Sunrises 2. The Unforgettable Fire (sounds like the original to me) 3. A Sort of Homecoming (Live) 4. Love Comes Tumbling 5. Bass Trap. Don’t know how similar to/different from the Canadian release this is.
Fun fact: Some of Bryan Adams’ recordings don’t count as Canadian content. The critera is a mix of songwriter/artist/place recorded in, and much of Adams’ work is recorded overseas with non-Canadian cowriters.