TV Review | This Beat Goes On: Canadian Pop Music in the 1970s Part One

When Shakin’ All Over: Canadian Pop Music in the 1960s aired in 2006, Jian Ghomeshi was still a CBC fill-in host for shows like Sounds Like Canada.  He had his own shows in 50 Tracks and The National Playlist, but he wasn’t the fully-formed irritant he is today.  Ghomeshi didn’t add much to Shakin’ All Over, which was a rundown of Great Canadian Hits mixed with comments from Current Canadian Singers.

The basic formula for Shakin’ All Over has been repeated for This Beat Goes On: Canadian Pop Music in the 1970s (CBC: August 27 & September 3, 9:00 PM ET/PT as part of Doc Zone).  This and Rise Up: Canadian Pop Music in the 1980s are being aired as part of Doc Zone‘s programming, which is odd as Shakin’ All Over merited a two-hour Monday timeslot.  I’ll never be able to divine CBC’s programming logic, but at least the documentaries are out.

I don’t think Jian Ghomeshi should have been kept as narrator for This Beat Goes On.  Ghomeshi sounds like he can’t be arsed to talk about one of Canada’s more interesting musical decades.  This Beat Goes On retains the turgid prose he is famous for on Q, but this material needs a more engaging narrator.  Ghomeshi can’t pretend to like every Canadian one hit wonder.

The first hour covers, as it should, highlights on the level of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Ian Thomas and The Guess Who.  Later on, Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell’s jazz era are covered.  Lightfoot looks somewhat emaciated in his interview segments, which is not surprising as he’s in his seventies.  Even Valdy is given his propers.  It doesn’t make “Rock And Roll Song” any less whiny, but fuck it, he’s Valdy.

Blues and blues rock are given a good chunk of airtime.  Footage is shown of McKenna Mendelson Mainline performing at Toronto’s Victory Theatre burlesque house, which is awesome.  The Mainline footage was shot for the Ontario Educational Communications Authority by Moses Znaimer, in the days before the OECA embraced modernism and called itself TVOntario.

It’s also nice to see footage of Downchild Blues Band, Dutch Mason Blues Band and David Wilcox.  Their shit still holds up thirty-some-odd years later.  Crowbar are comparatively dusted over, even though they had a huge hit single in 1971.

French-language bands get their foot in This Beat Goes On‘s door – Beau Dommage, Robert Charlebois, Les Séguin, Gilles Valiquette, Harmonium.  Northern Ontario’s CANO also earn a look-over.  This Beat Goes On: Canadian Pop Music in the 1970s is weighed down by Toronto and Vancouver-centrism, so it makes sense to include Quebec and Northern Ontario somewhere in the documentary.

This Beat Goes On‘s major failing – aside from the faux-widescreen bars placed on top of full-frame archival footage; nice going – is repetition of the Shakin’ All Over: Canadian Pop Music in the 1960s formula.  No shit you’ll see Ron Sexsmith, Sam Roberts and Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle talk about Big Canadian Hits.  Nash the Slash gets tons of interview time for some reason.  Promoters are featured heavily, which makes sense as they had thankless jobs in the 1970s.

This Beat Goes On‘s first hour is predictable, yet enjoyable.  Disco is justifiably ignored, while the lasting Canadian artists are given attention.  The hour-long chunks work in the documentary’s favour, though This Beat Goes On‘s greatest hits format can only go so far.  The documentary doesn’t start to bite the big pink one until its second half, so take the good with the bad.

C. Archer
Le Social