Life Is a Song

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(Pictured: Canadian singer Ginette Reno, who has come out of semi-retirement several times in recent years to sing national anthems during the NHL playoffs, seen here in 2017.)

ARSA, frequently mentioned here, is the Airheads Radio Survey Archive. It has over 91,000 radio station music surveys in its collection now, an unmatched resource for the history of popular music and pop radio in last half of the 20th century. The other day, while looking for something else, I found a year-end survey for 1970 from CKLG in Vancouver, British Columbia. CKLG was at 730 on the AM dial, but instead of listing the Top 73 for the year, CKLG listed the Top 173. And it’s actually even bigger than that: CKLG’s Top 173 includes six two-sided hits, so it’s actually 179 songs. Three of the six are by Creedence Clearwater Revival: “Travelin’ Band”/”Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door””/”Long As I Can See the Light,” and “Up Around the Bend”/”Run Through the Jungle.” Three others are by the Guess Who: “American Woman”/”No Sugar Tonight,” “Share the Land”/”Bus Rider,” and “No Time”/”Proper Stranger.”

CKLG’s Top 173 of 1970 includes a number of Canadian acts besides the Guess Who with hits south of the border: Anne Murray, Andy Kim, the Poppy Family, Mashmakhan, Gordon Lightfoot, Edward Bear, the Original Caste, Tom Northcott, and Ronnie Hawkins (who was born in America but has lived most of his life in Canada). The 1970 list also has a couple of acts that would eventually hit in America but hadn’t yet, including the Bells and Terry Jacks (who was part of the Poppy Family). But what interests us more are those Canadian acts who remain unknowns down here. Such as:

71. “I Must Have Been Blind”/The Collectors. A Vancouver act with a handful of late 60s hits in Canada, the Collectors eventually morphed into the better-known and more-successful Chilliwack.

91. “One Way Ticket”/McKenna Mendelson Mainline. A blues band made up of musicians from four prominent Toronto bands whose album bore the rather unfortunate title Stink. By the time 1970 had dawned, the band had already begun to fall apart. Future funk legend Rick James was a member for a while during its later stages.

123. “Life Is a Song”/Gainsborough Gallery. The lone black member of this five-piece group left soon after they recorded their album, allegedly because certain American clubs didn’t want to book a mixed-race band. Their album, described as “experimental melodic and psychedelic garage pop,” was produced by Norman Petty in Clovis, New Mexico, at the same studio where Buddy Holly recorded. “Life Is a Song” is about as substantial as a soap bubble, and you can hear it at the bottom of this page.

124. “We Were Happy”/Jason Hoover. A meandering bit of prog rock that’s credited incorrectly on the CKLG survey. This band was properly known as The Trials of Jayson Hoover, one of several identities assumed by various combinations of Vancouver musicians of the 1960s, always fronted by one Jayson Hoover.

125. “My Home Town”/Seeds of Time. Another Vancouver act, some members of which would move on to the more successful group Prism, best known in America for “Don’t Let Him Know,” as well as the ridiculous and awesome “Armageddon” and “See Forever Eyes.” “My Home Town” is the first song on this list so far that I’d be interested in hearing again.

129. “Beautiful Second-Hand Man”/Ginette Reno. Reno is from Quebec and would become a much-decorated star of music, movies, and TV through the course of her long career, which began in the 60s. Thanks to her anthem performances at National Hockey League playoff games over the last several years, she might be the best-known performer on this list. Celine Dion considers Reno one of her idols.

142. “Ten Pound Note”/Steel River. It’s not correct to say this Toronto band was utterly unknown in the States. We’ve mentioned them at this blog once before, during one of our earlier forays into Canadian content. Two of Steel River’s singles, including “Ten Pound Note,” bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970 and 1971.

158. “We Will Find Love”/Ann Attenborrow. This record was produced by Tom Northcott, whose fingerprints were on a fair number of Canadian hits of this period. Apart from that, the Internet knows nothing.

172. “As Feelings Go”/Spring. Still another Vancouver band, Spring seems never to have recorded an entire album, only a few singles in 1969 and 1970. “As Feelings Go” sounds like Badfinger, and I like it.

If you are interested in the Vancouver music scene (scoff if you must, but somebody amongst the readership might be), there’s plenty here.

4 responses

  1. Hey JB, is 173 entries the most you’ve seen for any station’s year-end survey? I realize what you’ve said about 91,000 surveys on the site, so obviously you can’t (and shouldn’t) research them all, but that’s the biggest number I’ve ever seen.

  2. Hey JB, is 173 the most number of songs you’ve ever seen on a year-end survey? I know you mentioned the website has some 91,000 surveys so I know you can’t review them all, but that does seem like an usually large number to compile by a radio station.

    1. I wrote about a yearend survey a few years ago from a station at 1580AM that listed the top 158, but I haven’t seen very many as big. Although I haven’t done the math, it seems to me that a list of 158 or 173 would have to be a large percentage of all the new music a station played in a year, if not nearly all of it.

  3. Ahh, the awesome and ridiculous “Armageddon” by Prism, with these great lyrics: “There was a full moon over Memphis
    National Guard outside thousands wait for Elvis
    Waitin’ ever since he died for a miracle gonna happen” and…” Jerry and Linda in the White House
    President sleepin’ in his shoes red phones ring in the blackout.”
    Who can ever forget?

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