The biggest development in the Canadian music industry in the mid-70s was that the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association) began to present various certification awards (gold, platinum, diamond, etc.) to albums and singles that attained sales of a defined number of units. Albums that sold 50,000 copies were certified “Gold”; 100,000 “Platinum”; 200,000 “2x Platinum”; 1 million, “Diamond”. On 1 August 1975, the first three Canadian albums were certified Platinum: Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s Four Wheel Drive, Beau Dommage’s self-titled album, and Paul Anka’s Anka.
In the mid-70s, the world was being swept up in ABBA fever. Canadians were taken up in this whirlwind as well but another foreign band became Canada’s favourite and was by far more successful in Canada than in another other country. Its name was Supertramp. Canada’s love affair with Supertramp was to continue on well beyond its retirement in 1982. Two of the band’s albums were to reach diamond status. In terms of homegrown talent, the mid-70s was one of the most productive periods in Canadian music history. The biggest year of the decade for Canadian music was 1974. Three of the Top 10 songs of the year (including #1) were by Canadian artists. But let’s begin with 1973.
The two biggest Canadian songs of the year were “Last Song” by Edward Bear (#16) and “Danny’s Song” by Anne Murray (#50). The third biggest was by a short-lived outfit called Skylark (“Wildflower” – #52). The most significant thing about this Vancouver-based band was that one of its members went on to become an internationally famous music producer and composer, responsible for smash hits from such artists as Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Chicago, Josh Groban, and many others. His name? David Foster. We will profile him later on in a special entry dedicated to Canadian music producers.
British-born Keith Hampshire never became a superstar but had two big hits in 1973: “Daytime Night-time” and his cover of Cat Stevens’ “First Cut is the Deepest”. Another import from the U.K. was Scottish-born Murray McLauchlan, one of the most significant folk singers of the 70s. He had a big hit in ’73: “Farmer’s Song”. New Brunswick’s French folk singer Edith Butler began composing her own material in 1973 and, with growing recognition (she won a number of awards) and popularity, she found her albums going gold in the 80s.
One-hit wonders duo Gary and Dave scored with “Could You Ever Love Me Again”. They were fairly popular in Europe but left the music business to become airline pilots. Another short-lived outfit was The Defranco Family, comprised of five Italian-Canadian siblings. Their debut single “Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat” reached #3 on the Billboard charts and sold 2 million copies. They were also successful with “Abra-Ca-Dabra” and “Save the Last Dance for Me”.
The real-life brother of hoser “Doug McKenzie” (eh), Ian Thomas got going with the hit “Painted Ladies” from his debut album. It reached #4 in Canada and #34 in the U.S. He’d started out in the band Tranquility Base at the turn of the decade. Several other Top 40 hits followed well into the 80s: “Liars”, “Coming Home”, “Hold On”, “Chains”, and “Levity”. We like “I Really Love You” (a 70s synthesizer ballad) and “Harmony”, both of which received radio airplay.
Chilliwack, named after a medium-sized city in British Columbia, grew out of a 60s band called The Collectors. They made the Top 10 in ’73 with “Lonesome Mary” and scored several more hits in the decade culminating in their and #1 hit in the early 80s: “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)”.
“We had joy. We had fun. We had seasons in the sun.” These words typified the year, and the song that housed them, after spending four months on the charts, was not only the biggest of the year but also of the decade; it sold 11 million copies worldwide making it one of the most successful singles of all-time. Previously, we’d mentioned The Poppy Family, consisting of a husband-wife duo who scored two big hits. After their divorce, the husband—Terry Jacks—embarked on a brief solo career, which yielded this one lone hit. It won a Juno Award two years in a row for best-selling single, resulting in Winnipegger Jacks himself being awarded with male artist of the year in 1974. After the success of “Seasons in the Sun”, Jacks moved on to producing for such artists as The Beach Boys, Nana Mouskouri, DOA, and the aforementioned Chilliwack.
The third biggest song of 1974 was Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” and the ninth was Paul Anka’s “You’re Having My Baby”. Andy Kim and Joni Mitchell had big hits this year with “Rock Me Gently” and “Help Me” respectively.
The Guess Who scored a hit with “Clap for the Wolfman” (#68 of the year). As we’d mentioned, Randy Bachman had left the group. And what was good ol’ Randy up to? Forming his own band. The early 70s was a time of sappy, soft rock, which wasn’t for everyone. The last echoes of harder rock that had dominated the 60s faded out with the retirement of Creedence Clearwater Revival in ’72. But Randy Bachman picked up the slack that same year when he, with brothers and friends, formed Bachman-Turner Overdrive. They began recording in 1973 but it took a year before radio began airing their gearhead, workingman rock. Were they popular? You bet. Their rock anthem “Takin’ Care of Business” continues to be popular today and finished the year ’74 in 66th spot. They did even better with the song that launched arena rock, always a favourite at roller and skating rinks—”You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”—the 16th biggest song of the year.
Believe it or not, there were two bands whose albums outsold B.T.O.’s. Their names? Harmonium and Beau Dommage. Unlike B.T.0. they were each able to achieve multi-platinum certifications for a couple of albums. Three of Harmonium’s albums appear in Bob Mersereau’s “Top 100 Canadian Albums”.
Canadian news anchor Byron MacGregor read a newspaper editorial written by Gordon Sinclair about the United States which garnered such a huge response that he was asked to record “The Americans” over the soundtrack “America the Beautiful” performed by The Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The record became a big hit, reaching #4 on the Billboard singles chart and #1 in Canada. It finished the year ’74 in 67th place. It was re-released in 1979 after the Iran hostage crisis and in 2001 after the 9-11 Attacks. The recording has sold over 3 ½ million copies and all of his proceeds have been donated to The American Red Cross.
1974 was also the year that saw the debut from new age guitarist (one of the best in the world) Liona Boyd. Italian Montrealer Gino Vanelli realized his breakthrough with “People Gotta Move”. And Diane Juster, after becoming popular via performances of her songs by Julie Arel began to shine on her own.
Paul Anka, teamed up with Odia Coates, continued his comeback with three huge hits: “One Man Woman/One Woman Man” (the biggest Canadian song of the year), “I Don’t Like To Sleep Alone”, and “(I Believe) There’s Nothing Stronger Than Our Love”. Bachman-Turner Overdrive also scored a hat trick with “Hey You” (2nd biggest Canuck tune of the year), “Roll On Down the Highway”, and “Quick Change Artist”. The Stampeders had two big hits: “New Orleans” and “Hit the Road Jack”. Quebec’s Michel Pagliaro scored an English hit with “What the Hell I Got”.
A newcomer that year was Hagood Hardy. “The Homecoming”, an easy listening tune of great beauty, was the third biggest Canadian hit of the year. Hardy was born in the U.S. as his mother was an American citizen. After studying at the University of Toronto, he played the vibraphone in jazz clubs before recording solo works. Later on, he scored the music for CBC-TV’s “Anne of Green Gables” series. Pianist Andre Gagnon came out with a winning album, Neiges. It became the first Canadian album to reach multi-platinum status in the country and won a Juno Award for Album of the Year. Children’s music got a big boost when Raffi released his debut album.
1975 also saw the debut of one of the most popular singers of the late-70s, Dan Hill. This year he scored a moderate hit; his “You Make Me Want to Be” broke into the Top 30.