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

Canadian punk kicks off the second part of This Beat Goes On (review of Part One here.)  The Demics, The Viletones, D.O.A. and Teenage Head are given mention, which doesn’t surprise me.  The still-active Subhumans get one clip and aren’t mentioned by name, which does.

Cleave Anderson of the Battered Wives is interviewed, yet the Battered Wives aren’t talked about at all.  There weren’t that many notable Canadian punk bands of the 1970s, so what gives?  Anderson’s more famous as the original drummer for Blue Rodeo, but the Battered Wives did open for Elvis Costello.  That has to count for something.

Covering Teenage Head is like including roast beef in a roast beef sandwich.  If a generalist Canadian rock documentary doesn’t mention Teenage Head, something has gone wrong.  Where the hell are the Forgotten Rebels in the documentary, anyway?  The band’s only been around for 32 years, but they didn’t cause a riot at Ontario Place.  Notoriety sells, I guess.

As for Rough Trade, I don’t want to hear how incendiary “High School Confidential” was for the fiftieth time.  I’m not taking away from the song’s importance to the lesbian community, but it’s a tired point.  O/Rough Trade were around for twelve years before “High School Confidential.”  Hell, “All Touch” charted higher than “High School Confidential,” yet “High School Confidential” is Rough Trade’s signature song.

This Beat Goes On immediately goes south when Neil Young is tagged as a punk forefather.  The plaudit doesn’t do Neil Young justice.  The man has never played to trends, but can Nicholas Jennings and Gary McGroarty at least mention Harvest, On the Beach and/or Tonight’s the Night?  This Beat Goes On limits itself to Rust Never Sleeps material, which is a shame.

As for Nash the Slash, it’s great that he’s being talked about, but no FM?  Black Noise was reissued five times in Canada and twice in the United States!  Granted, three of those times were due to Passport Records’ inability to stay solvent, but FM’s 1970s output is worthy enough for This Beat Goes On.

This Beat Goes On has a bad habit of believing the 1970s ended in 1980, thus working in songs like The Kings’ “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide.”  The art of combining two songs into one isn’t new.  The Guess Who famously did that with “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature.”  This Beat Goes On has producer Bob Ezrin claim “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide” as one of the first intentional two-for-one singles, but it’s not like The Kings spearheaded a trend.

Ezrin is still a hell of a producer, though.  He should have been featured on This Beat Goes On.  The man worked with Alice Cooper, KISS, Lou Reed, Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel.  In the 1970s, he was money.

I could have done without the Burton Cummings/Dan Hill/Gino Vannelli troika of easy listening.  Sure, they’re culturally relevant to the documentary.  So is Claudja Barry, and Jian Ghomeshi doesn’t talk about “Boogie Woogie Dancin’ Shoes.”  Murray McLauchlan and Stan Rogers are given almost too much airtime, but their works are more interesting than watching Cummings pussify himself.

Rush and April Wine are held off until the end of the documentary.  Max Webster are given mention, as are Streetheart (in passing), but where the fuck are Chilliwack?  The band’s previous lives as The Classics and The Collectors are featured on Shakin’ All Over: Canadian Pop Music in the 1960s.  Chilliwack had a few hits in the 1970s – “Crazy Talk,” “Lonesome Mary” and “Fly at Night.”  The big hits “My Girl” and “Whatcha Gonna Do (When I’m Gone)” were to come, but those are being saved for Rise Up: Canadian Pop Music in the 1980s.

Loverboy shouldn’t even be in this documentary.  Loverboy formed in 1980 and are synonymous with the 1980s.  That’s like talking about Saturday Night Live in the 1970s and focusing on Eddie Murphy.  Lead singer Mike Reno was in Moxy for a cup of coffee.  Why not just talk about Moxy?

I realize this review is full of “where are Random Band X” questions.  This Beat Goes On is as deep as the after-effects of a bong hit by design, but the second half of TBGO underlines my problems with it.  For a documentary about the 1970s, the early 1980s are referenced far too often.  The punk section’s history is too cleaned-up, ignoring a few notable bands.

Two hours isn’t enough time to cover ten years of music.  This Beat Goes On is the sort of documentary that works better as a miniseries or limited series.  I wonder why CBC hasn’t plumped for that idea yet.  Maybe the music rights issues are too thorny.  I’d rather watch that show than a sitcom version of Men With Brooms.

Cameron Archer

Owner/Writer at Gloryosky
Cameron Archer runs this site, and is a freelance arts writer. He has contributed to Canadian Screenwriter since 2011. He is a CMG Freelance member.
Cameron Archer