Published on June 22nd, 2015 | by Mike Ainscoe0
‘History of Canadian Rock n Roll’ by Bob Mersereau (Backbeat Books)
At the risk of being facetious, some might say this could rank alongside the world’s shortest books. There was an episode of Fawlty Towers when a smarmy wide boy character talked about ‘What To Do In Torquay’, ‘The Wit Of Margaret Thatcher’ and ‘England’s Greatest Lovers’ being of similar ilk.
But they say there’s never a truer word spoken in jest, and all credit to Bob Merserau for putting into print what is either his encyclopaedic knowledge or an impressive piece of research, which makes a mockery of those who might mock. Add an eloquent four page foreword from Rush’s Neil Peart, something certainly not to be sniffed at, and there’s perhaps enough now to assure you that there’s some worth to the title and tempt you into finding out a little more about the forgotten nation of rock and roll history.
In fact that’s the main gist of this tome – Canadian musicians just don’t get their due, becoming marginalised, left out or simply assimilated into popular myth – take Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Both Canadians yet more often than not associated with the Californian dream. That’s also another general theme of the story in so much as the biggest stars in Canadian rock and roll seemed to make their names by leaving the country, although there remained plenty of bands at home making music.
The rock and roll story all kicks off at St Michaels Choir School in 1947 when four boys decided to form a vocal group, The Otnorots, and brings things right up to date with the new breed ranging from the critically acclaimed indie big band Arcade Fire to the monstrously successful mum appeal of Michael Buble. Not forgetting Toronto rapper Drake and the never ending story which is Neil Young, who continues to be a huge live draw and churn out albums with astonishing regularity. It’s worth coming full circle back to Neil Peart and his pals in Rush whose induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame came a full fourteen years since their first year of eligibility in 1999. A slow burning nation musically with Rush standing as a metaphor for a country which doesn’t blow its own trumpet, but just doing a steady job and doing it well.
Perhaps not a tome which is the most stimulating or appealing, yet it stands as a terrific piece of writing from an established author with a track record in the field, and one which once the back is broken becomes if not quite an enthralling, certainly an enlightening narrative.